Bourke B. Hickenlooper

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Oct 4 14:19:11 UTC 2008

At 1:19 AM -0400 10/4/08, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Sat, Oct 4, 2008 at 12:52 AM, LanDi Liu <strangeguitars at> wrote:
>>  > On Fri, Oct 3, 2008 at 9:26 PM, <ronbutters at> wrote:
>>  >> "Bourke B. Hickenlooper" is surely a strong candidate for the
>>funniest name of ANY US Senator ever. Other candidates?
>>  >
>>  On Sat, Oct 4, 2008 at 10:51 AM, Benjamin Zimmer
>>  <bgzimmer at> wrote:
>>  > Outerbridge Horsey. Alpheus Felch. Tasker Oddie. Homer Bone.
>>  Hickenlooper has a spoonerizing kind of quality to it though, maybe
>>  because lick is more common than hick.  Lick -n- hoop 'er...
>Hardly know 'er.
Very nice.  On the 2/16/04 link from the above post, there's a
comment from Geoff Pullum on "an hero" (occurring in the Times,
possibly as a typo, possibly not) quoted approvingly by Mark Liberman:

"NO naturally spoken dialect, not even those of the people who stay
in an hotel, says "an hero", nor ever has in two hundred years."

Leaving aside the case of "an hero", which as noted in the links may
be infected with the French pox, and sticking to native words with
initial h- in stressed syllables, I'm not entirely sure when the
transition from "an hXXXX" to "a hXXXX" occurred, but:   Slightly
less than 200 years ago, Jane Austen was still having her characters
talk in informal conversation about "an hill", "an house", "an happy
man", etc., all quite consistently (through _Persuasion_, completed
in 1816).  I haven't done a systematic (or even unsystematic) search
of indefinite article sandhi in the earlier 19th century, but it may
also be worth noting that as late as 1843 John Stuart Mill was still
referring to "an universal" (although of course this is not
"naturally spoken" English).  I don't know when "an" began to be
impossible before stressed /h/ and orthographic but non-phonological
vowels like the "u" of "universal", but evidently a bit later in the
19th c.


The American Dialect Society -

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