Review: The Aitch Factor by Susan Butler


Title: The Aitch Factor

Author: Susan Butler

Published: Pan Macmillan August 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read on August 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Aitch Factor by Susan Butler, a long-time editor of the Australian Macquarie Dictionary, contains a series of short essays about language, its history, development and idiosyncrasies.

Butler begins with the Haitch vs Aitch debate (my maternal grandmother in particular would have been horrified had I ever pronounced the letter H as ‘Haitch’) and goes on to explore other topics like Capitalisation, Internet gibberish, The attraction of slang and How do words get into the dictionary?

Butler is not without a sense of humour which these essays also reflect with subjects that include, Should man boobs be in the dictionary?, The mystery of the bogan, and her recommendation that we adopt Canadian spelling as an international standard over British or American English.

I was most impressed, and feel somewhat vindicated, to learn that Butler considers (and history proves) the apostrophe to be ‘an artifice of writing, a grammarian’s flourish’ and actually advocates that we forgo it entirely given it is possible to do so without any effect on our comprehension of written language. Ive often thought its true, and shes right, isnt she?

An ideal gift for language lovers, or pedantics, grammar Nazi’s or wordsmiths, The Aitch Factor is an entertaining and illuminating treatise on the ever evolving landscape of language.


The Aitch Factor is available to purchase from

Pan Macmillan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jo @ Booklover Book Reviews
    Aug 10, 2014 @ 13:39:26

    Oh my… I’m afraid I can’t agree with you there Shelleyrae. I’m an apostrophe devotee.



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  3. Charles Williams
    Aug 14, 2014 @ 21:40:37

    The elephant in the room that isn’t mentioned is the point that sooner or later Australians , particularly the younger generation , travel overseas.
    Unless they can communicate effectively they will be misunderstood. There are many words used by Australians that are simply not used or understood overseas.
    I have witnessed many times Australians talking to Canadians and Americans using Australian slang , talking too fast , and assuming all the while that the rest of the world talks like we do . This is fine if you are talking to others that are of the younger generation and they ask what you mean and you can explain. If , on the other hand you are dealing with an air traffic controller, a law enforcement officer, a doctor or nurse at the emergency ward of a hospital , or somebody that needs to understand you the first time and act accordingly, then you may have problems .
    Finally, say thank you ,…..not ta .



    • shelleyrae @ Book'd Out
      Aug 15, 2014 @ 15:33:53

      In my experience Australians are far more aware and tolerant of language differences than Americans are. I do agree we need be able to communicate clearly but I don’t think it hurts to expose American and Canadians to Australian slang or phrasing.



  4. room51
    Aug 15, 2014 @ 15:05:49

    I’s the unnecessary apostrophe in Nazis ironic? I c’ant tell.



  5. kfelling
    Oct 08, 2014 @ 15:44:33

    half the population of Earth lives in only six countries. English is the official language in just one of those six:

    Changes underway in the one English speaking country:

    Suggest focusing on similarities rather than differences between English dialects and accents.



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