Re: a vs. an - RANT

Subject: Re: a vs. an - RANT
From: "Nickell Traduction" <nickelltrad -at- autoroute -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "Mary Sutton" <MSutton -at- confluence -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 13:12:09 -0500

Don't worry, I'm not going to throw anything at you, but in my first
message, I quoted from three British sources and it's not advised to use the
an in front of an h, unless you are not pronouncing the "h". The Brits who
have written to the list have confirmed this. I can actually give you a
fourth reputable British source now.

The Economist Style Guide says "An should be used before a word beginning
with a vowel or an h if, and only if, the h is silent. So a hospital, a
hotel, but an honorary degree.

<from previous message>
Here's what the British grammar and style books say:

1) In Practical English Usage by Michael Swan (an excellent and thorough
style book from England), he lists:

an hour
an honest man
an heir
BUT a horse
Hour, honest and heir are exceptional; in most words beginning with h, the h
is pronounced and so is the article a. There are a few other words, like
hotel and habitual, which begin with h in an unstressed syllable. Some
people use the article an before these and drop the h, or pronounce it very
lightly. For example, an historian (then he puts the phonetic pronunciation
and it's obvious the h is not pronounced).

2) Even Fowler says:

"A is used before all consonants except silent h (a history, an hour); an
was formerly usual before an unaccented syllable beginning in h and is still
often seen and heard (an historian, an hotel, an hysterical scene, an
hereditary title, an habitual offender). But now that the h in such words is
pronounced, the distinction has become anomalous and will no doubt disappear
in time. Meantime speakers who like to say an should NOT try to
have it both ways by aspirating the h.

3) The Bloomsbury Good Word Guide (another excellent book)

The use of an before words that begin with an h sound and an *unstressed*
first syllable, such as hotel, historic, hereditary, habitual, etc., is
optional. Nowadays, the preference is increasingly to use a followed by
hotel, etc. with the h sounded, rather than an followed by hotel, etc. with
the h not pronounced.

Of course, in American and Canadian English, it's not idiomatic to say an
and drop the h.


So the preference in England, at least according to four reputable sources,
is no longer for the an in front of historical either.

Traci







-----Original Message-----
From: Mary Sutton <MSutton -at- confluence -dot- com>
To: 'Nickell Traduction' <nickelltrad -at- autoroute -dot- net>
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000 1:01 PM
Subject: RE: a vs. an - RANT


|I believe, but could be mistaken, than "an historical" is a phrasing most
|commonly used in British English nowadays. In American English, I have
|found it much more common to see "a historical."
|
|I'll go duck now to avoid anything sailing in my general direction. <g>
|
|- Mary
|
|-----Original Message-----
|From: Nickell Traduction [mailto:nickelltrad -at- autoroute -dot- net]
|Sent: Thursday, March 09, 2000 10:19 AM
|To: TECHWR-L
|Subject: Re: a vs. an - RANT
|
|
|Sorry, but I need some clarification here. First you say that "a" is used
|before a consonant sound in the Harbrace College Handbook, which includes
|"h", and then you say that an historical is correct (emphatically) because
|you were always taught that way. Isn't that a contradiction?
|
|Anyway, I find that everytime I hear "I was always taught that way, so it's
|correct" reminds me of a woman I knew who told me I had to put something a
|certain way (it escapes me at the moment). I told her that I had no
problem
|with it if she could tell me what stylebook she was getting it from,
because
|everything I had seen said otherwise. She got very mad and said, "I'm
|English, and I've always learned in school it was this way, so it's right."
|It turned out she was quite wrong, but she assumed it to be correct,
because
|somebody somewhere had said so, so be careful and ready to back yourself
up,
|before assuming anything, and look at different sources to find out what's
|the most common usage. Anyway, from what I've seen, it used to be used,
but
|is on the way out today, so why would you want to date yourself and use an
|antiquated form, especially if you've made it your life's work to be an
|"expert" in the language and to keep up to date with the "official" changes
|in this "living" language. Purists do have their place, because there are
|"unwanted" changes to the language as well, but their stubbornness about
|certain issues would mean that we'd still be writing the same as they did
|centuries ago.
|-----Original Message-----
|From: Jo Francis Byrd <jbyrd -at- byrdwrites -dot- com>
|To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
|Cc: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
|Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 4:28 PM
|Subject: Re: a vs. an
|
|
||Here's what my handy Harbrace College Handbook, tenth edition, 1988, says:
||
||Use "a" before the sound of a consonant: a yard, a U-turn, a one-base hit.
|Use
||"an" before a vowel sound: an empty can, an M.D., an ax, an X-ray."
||
||I was always taught you use "an" before words beginning with "h," so "an
||historical moment" IS grammatically correct.
||
||Jo Byrd
||
||Kelly Parr wrote:
||
||> Can anyone tell me the grammatical rule for using:
||>
||> "an historical moment."
||>
||> I hear this a lot on public radio, etc., and I'm pretty sure it's wrong,
|but
||> I'm having a debate with a colleague.
||>
||> The typical rule is to use "a" before words beginning with a consonant
or
||> consonant sound (including "y" and "w" words) and "an" before words
|beginning
||> with a vowel or vowel sound. So why "an historical moment"? I'm
assuming
|it's
||> pronounced "an 'istorical..." Is this a British convention that we've
|taken
||> into American usage?
||>
||> TIA
||> Kelly
||
||
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|
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|Contact ForeignExchange for the FREE paper, "3 steps to successful
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