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An Historic Blog Post

May 26, 2010
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At some point in my education, I learned that “an” is the form of the article “a” to be used before words that begin with vowels. The “n” is a sonic lubricant to help tongue and ear avoid sticky phrases like “a elephant.”

That is why I cannot fucking stand “an historic.” It doesn’t make sense. Was “h” sworn in as a vowel when I wasn’t looking? Have we gone cockney? It makes sense to use “an” if you don’t pronounce the “h”, but only a chimneysweep would say “an ‘istoric.”  If you like “an historic” so fucking much, I demand you use the following:

  • an hermit
  • an hippo
  • an headache
  • an helicopter
  • an hundred
  • an helmet
  • an habit

Now leave me alone.

Update:  I just read a bunch of interesting stuff about this subject on Wikipedia.  I was right.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen K permalink
    May 26, 2010 1:41 pm

    In all honesty i believe ‘an hippo’ sounds much better than the original pronunciation.

  2. Barry permalink*
    May 26, 2010 1:48 pm

    That may give me an heart attack.

  3. David permalink
    May 26, 2010 4:38 pm

    an hemorrhoid.

  4. grotfang permalink
    May 26, 2010 10:10 pm

    Not sure you were right…

    >>Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage allows “both a and an are used in writing a historic an historic”.
    (Wikipedia)

    As stated, it’s all about the sounds. It you pronounce a in its short form, the jump to the his in historic causes a pause, while the use of an allows the sentence to flow — hence its usage. This simply isn’t the case for harsher starts like hip, hem, head, etc that you use as examples above.

    The rule isn’t as simple as “vowels” either. Try “an usurper” out on the tongue and it simply doesn’t sound right.

    Tl;dr: I use “an historic” and don’t think it’s wrong. Weakly stressed syllables are also valid cases for using an; although both sound (and indeed are) correct.

    • Barry permalink*
      May 26, 2010 10:34 pm

      All good points, Grotfang (if that is your real name)

  5. Jonathan permalink
    May 27, 2010 4:01 am

    Instead of changing ‘an historic’ to ‘a historic’ I move that we change it to ‘an istoric.’

    We would really be making istory.

    • Barry permalink*
      May 27, 2010 6:57 am

      The Wikipedia article I linked to mentions that at different times, the convention has changed from “an elephant” to “a nelephant”. I think “a nhistoric” could be kind of gnar.

  6. Jonathan permalink
    May 27, 2010 2:20 pm

    A nihilistic a nhistoric.

  7. June 2, 2010 2:48 pm

    “An historic” is professorese and nothing else, used by people who want to show off their supposed linguistic superiority. And believe me, I’m well qualified to look down my nose at professors.

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