an historical (pronouncing the h)

Paul Frank paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Sep 14 11:05:32 UTC 2010

I realize that the slightest hint of prescriptivism is frowned upon
around this water cooler. But here's a pet peeve of mine: people who
say "an historic" and "an historical" and pronounce the "h". I don't
have a preference for "a historic" or "an historic" but if you opt for
the "an" shouldn't the "h" be silent? BBC World and BBC 1-4 news
presenters and talking heads invariably pronounce the "h" when they
say "an historical," which they do nine times out of ten instead of "a
historical" (this is just my impression, possibly because I pay
attention to this irritating habit). And it's not just Brits. Here's
Justice Stephen Breyer pronouncing the "h" in "historical" after the
indefinite article "an" in an NPR interview: "People think we decide
things politically, or that the only way to protect against subjective
views of judges is to have something called originalism, which is as
if you could reach decisions by means of an historical computer. I
don't think any of those things are true."



Paul Frank
German, French, Italian > English
paulfrank at
paul.frank at

The American Dialect Society -

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