an historical (pronouncing the h)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 15 15:05:32 UTC 2010

At 8:40 AM -0400 9/15/10, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>    I say "an historical" and "an heroic".  With a little huff.  That
>is, different from "an idiot". Self-reported, and self-conscious, and
>therefore suspect.
>    But I also say "a history" and "a hero".  With a definite huff.
>    But everyone knows I'm strange ... and pretentious in my speech.
>    Or -- is that because the first two are stressed on the second syllable,
>and the last two on the first syllable?

So I was claiming.

>    (Excluding the "a/an" of course.)
>    I could say "a historical" and "a heroic".
>    But I could not say "an history" or "an hero".  Or write
>them.  Or read them without marking up the book.
And consider my difficulty when my audiobook readers of the Jane
Austen novels kept talking about "an hill", "an house", and "an happy
man".  I couldn't very well damage the cassettes without incurring
the wrath of our overworked public librarians (one of whom I'm
married to).


The American Dialect Society -

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