Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Sun Oct 5 09:59:17 UTC 2008

Laurence Horn wrote:

> The occurrence of "an" before /yu/ in words like "universal" in
> writers like Mill may, I'm guessing, be a kind of orthographic
> version of spelling pronunciation, but I have no idea how he would
> have pronounce "an universal".  I assume that Austen would have
> pronounced "an hill" or "an house" the way she spelled them.

As in "An Universal Etymological English Dictionary". I've been told, and
have written, that the old usage of "an" before words beginning in "u" is
because the vowel was then said more like "oo". Am I wrong? What about "a

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: wordseditor at

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