Did anything jump out at you in the above title?
Last week A few weeks ago I posted the following on a popular social networking site that allows for more than 140 characters:
This is an English usage post. Not a political one.
If you are USAmerican you probably don’t want to type or say “an historic” and *should probably stick with “a historic” because you probably do pronounce that h in historic.
Thank you for your kind attention to this. It’s been an honor to share this information with you.
The background for the post was that it was just after Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic Party’s nomination. I got a variety of responses including some nice quips like, “You mean, ‘It’s been a honour’?!” and “As an British person with an poor grasp of grammar, I say “the historic” in every cases.”
Many people agreed with my point and some said this was a pet peeve for them and one guy said it drives him crazy. My mother, a known pedant, “liked” it. So, that was pretty cool.
I also got some of my fellow Americans stating they would say, “an historic” which I found somewhat surprising. One gentleman was kind enough to send me an MP3 file. Well actually he sent a few files but I wanted to illustrate my knowledge of the rule by typing “an MP3” much like I did in the original post when I wrote, “an honor.” The common thought among those USAmericans who’d say “an historic” seemed to be some blending of the sounds or simply dropping the H sound. Regional variations were suggested as well (which makes some sense to me).
I found myself wondering if any of these folks would say “an history” or “an hit” but nobody said they would. So, for whatever reason it seems like the word “historic” is somehow considered to be different than other similar words.
Before sharing my thoughts and getting the responses on this point I was under the impression this usage of “an historic” was more of an over-learned (or mis-learned) rule or an attempt to sound posh by sounding British. I don’t usually get too worked up about usage which doesn’t match my own. That said, I think this “an historic” is especially aggravating to my ears because it strikes me as an attempt to be too correct or too posh for American English users. For example, I could care less if someone used the word ain’t.
Here is what the “Grammar Girl” had to say in relation to this an/a issue with historic (and a full post on a/an here) What I found most interesting in her post was the line, “There’s nothing special about historic that exempts it from the standard rule.” Speaking of the Grammar Girl, I always liked Russ Mayne’s post on her, who vs. whom, and “The (false) Gods of Grammar.”
I had some mixed feelings regarding posting my thoughts on this issue and the resulting responses because I feel like doing so seemingly placed me in a position of looking down on those who don’t say it the same way I would. I guess it’s the risk one takes when opining on language issues.
Another aspect for me to keep in mind here is the whole prescriptivism vs. descriptivism debate. I generally trend towards being a descriptivist and tend to think harking back to the good old days of yore when English was pure and correct is a losing and inefficient battle.
I think that is all for today. Thank you for reading. All typos and grammar mistakes in this post are completely intended.