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What is the correct sound of the letter H when reading the alphabet - is it 'aych' or 'Haych' ?

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Related: Pronunciation of the English alphabet. –  RegDwigнt May 4 '11 at 11:24
    
The only time I've heard "haitch" is from Francophones that have a hard time understanding the usage of the English letter 'h'. They will also tend to pronounce "have" as "ave", and "eight" as "hate". –  tenfour May 4 '11 at 13:20
    
The 'haitch' pronunciation is a hypercorrection, and I'm convinced I saw that fact in an answer on this site, but my search skills are coming up short. –  Marthaª May 4 '11 at 13:54
    
As my mother used to scold me: There's only one H in aitch. –  Matt Эллен May 4 '11 at 14:01
    
@Matt: ...which probably meant that pronouncing the H was an existing variant (just not socially acceptable). –  Mitch May 4 '11 at 14:55
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5 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

The Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes has the question, "How do you pronounce the letter 'H'?"

Their current results:

aitch (85%)
haitch (12%)
I use something else (2%)

You can see a clearer (and navigable) image of this response map at the link above by registering and taking the survey:

COSWE results

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I am curious to know what that 2% says :D ahah –  Alenanno May 4 '11 at 13:12
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@Alenanno Maybe "huh", as in when kids learn the sounds the letters (are supposed to) make: ah, buh, cuh, duh, eh, ff, guh, huh. –  billynomates May 4 '11 at 14:21
    
If it is indeed a hypercorrection that Francophones are susceptible to, I would have expected to see more "haitch"s closer to the south-eastern coast of England, not up near Ireland... –  Uticensis May 4 '11 at 14:58
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super +1 for the link, another super double +1 for the data. –  Mitch May 4 '11 at 14:59
    
@Mitch, you upvoted twice? :D @Callithumpian: Was the survey already available or you asked that question? Very useful tool! @billynomates: I didn't think of that, but you might be right... I was wondering if they had some "impronunciable pronunciation" lol –  Alenanno May 4 '11 at 15:31
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According to the OALD, the standard way to pronounce the H is this one, which is without the "H" sound in its pronunciation.

Although on Wikipedia, it says there is also the other pronunciation (with the "H" sound at the beginning) which, anyway, is considered to be nonstandard.

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FWIW, here in the U.S. I have never heard any other pronunciation but "aitch". –  Robusto May 4 '11 at 10:53
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@teylyn: yes it does matter. If it didn't matter a site like this about English, or any grammar/site/whatever about languages wouldn't exist. :) –  Alenanno May 4 '11 at 10:58
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I don't understand all the fuss. It's clearly a regional thing whether or not the h is aspirated or not. In some countries/dialects, people say "haitch", in others they say "aitch". English has different pronunciations in different countries/regions. Unlike a prescriptive pronunciation, like German and the Duden and all, English has always upheld regional differences. So why make a fuss about it? "hat" is pronounced totally different in UK and US and NZ. No prescription. Every regional pronunciation is correct. So why prescribe how to pronounce the letter H? [flamebait removed] –  teylyn May 4 '11 at 11:10
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Also, @teylyn: stop dissing German already. You give Duden way too much credit. Entire Wikipedias are being created in Bavarian, Ripuarian, Plattdeutsch, Alemannic, Palatinate German, Pennsylvania Dutch... Now please point me to the Wikipedias in Indian, New-Zealand, South-African, Texan, or African American Vernacular English. :P –  RegDwigнt May 4 '11 at 13:39
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@Alenanno: I can confirm (from my 30+ years of living there and being a native speaker) that "haitch", while probably less common than "aitch", is nonetheless frequently heard in the UK, even among highly educated speakers. (I don't especially like it myself, but it's hard to argue that it's not a common variant! :) –  psmears May 4 '11 at 17:51
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How can we say one is more correct than another with evolving pronunciations? At which point does haitch become improper and aych is "correct", or vice versa? An article the BBC ran in October 2010 mentions some interesting class separation issues as well.

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It depends on the variant of pronuouncing the letter H in the county/culture you live in. There is no single "correct" pronunciation for "H", just as there is no single "correct" pronunciation for "Z". In the case of "Z": in some countries/cultures (like US English) it is "zee", in other countries (like NZ English) it is "zed". With "H" it's similar. It depends on the accepted pronunciation rules for the country. There is no globally correct application. English may be a global language, but "correct" pronunciation of English is far from global. There are so many valid regional variants, that the concept of "global" does not really exist for English pronunciation.

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Your answer provides misinformation, and my answer proves you wrong. If you think you're right, provide some reliable source, and not just your feelings about the matter. –  Alenanno May 4 '11 at 11:21
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I'm answering here: don't worry about the insult. Anyway, be specific. I didn't say "haitch" doesn't exist, I said it's considered to be nonstandard. It's not an "insult" to you being from NZ, but if we must pick a "standard" pronunciation, I choose the English one. Please, specify this difference in your answer, saying that your opinion on that matter is about your country, and not about worldwide English. –  Alenanno May 4 '11 at 11:30
    
With many different communities that have English as their native language, I don't think there is a standard way of pronouncing any word. Which "standard" pronunciation is "correct"? UK (and its many valid variations)? US (and its many valid variations)? South Africa? Australia? New Zealand? Who decides/defines what a "standard" is? However interested the parties in non-native speaking countries are, the realities of actually practised spelling and prounuciation are a much better testament of the state of the language than the ideas of someone who lives in another country. –  teylyn May 4 '11 at 13:38
    
So are you saying in your variety of English (is it New Zealand?) it is a common variant to pronounce the H, or are you saying that everyone there pronounces it and it sounds 'off' to -not- pronounce it? –  Mitch May 4 '11 at 14:57
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It's not haitch, it's aitch. People who say haitch are just trying to sound posh.

However, language is dynamic and as we are not French the spelling and pronunciation will most likely change to haitch. But for now those who are trully educated, whether informally or formally, use aitch.

So for those pub owners who like a good quiz this is a good question.

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