Monday, July 19, 2004

More on 'A' and 'An'

While I was on vacation, I had a couple of slightly testy e-mail exchanges with readers who took issue with my disapproval of "an historic" and the like.

I bolster my case in a new Sharp Point.


E said...

Most people who drive SUVs don't need them for their practical qualities (four-wheel drive, high ground clearance, powerful engines); they drive them because they want to project a certain image.

Try suggesting that publicly, along with limits on the availability of SUVs, and those people will respond out of all proportion with defenses of their right to drive what they choose and assertions that their choice is about more than a status symbol.

I suspect that's what's going on with Americans who insist on "an historic," to a lesser degree. These sorts of pretensions are closely linked to people's sense of their own identities, and suggesting that the emperor is nekkid is an attack on that identity, so people become defensive and angry and go to absurd lengths to justify their choices.

Rhea said...

Nice little write-up in the City Paper this week about tomorrow's book signing and P&P. I've enjoyed reading your blog. I posted a link to it on my weblog (

blythe said...

I don't know that I'd consider an authority on journalistic writing. It tends to do a decent job, but its forte is certainly broadcast news. That makes quite a difference. When you're looking at a medium traditionally focused on oral journalism, it makes a lot more sense to see "an historic." I still think it's awkward and ill-advised in text.

Bill said...

Maybe I 'aven't been listening 'ard enough, but I've never heard an American say "an 'istoric." I have heard Americans say "an historic" with a full-blown h, which is wrong no matter how you slice it.

Paul said...

i'm astonished debate on this continues. A historic is so manifestly correct on either side of the Atlantic or in my case the Pacific.