“An historic” makes you look like a tool

I would like to quickly address the habit some people (usually intellectuals) have of saying “an historic” instead of “a historic.”

Let me be clear. For the purposes of this post, I am NOT referring to people who use “an historic” in writing (though I could do without that as well), nor am I referring to people who drop the H sound and pronounce it “an ‘istoric.” I am referring, quite specifically, to the people who persist in using “an,” implying that the next word will commence with a vowel sound, and then follow it up with hard-H “historic,” clearly pronouncing the consonant that begins the word.

Regardless of how many intelligent people you have heard speaking this way and insisting it is correct, it is absolutely not. You know better. “An” is only used when it is to be followed by a vowel sound.

People who do speak this way will no doubt tell me I am wrong and cite one of the many sources (like this one) that acknowledge “an historic” as technically correct. To these people, I would gently point out that in practically every case, “an historic” is only considered correct because, ‘istorically, some accents tend to drop the H in speech, in which case the word now begins with a vowel. If you are pronouncing the H (which is a consonant), it is 100% wrong of you to use “an.”

Genuine question for people who speak this way: Do you also say “an history?”

The most amusing thing about this affectation is that — at least in North America — it only seems to exist in supposedly intelligent people who have reached a certain level of post-secondary education. The only people to whom this sounds correct are fellow members of the cult of speaking this way. To literally everyone else you meet (men and women on the street, teenagers, children, simpletons), it sounds stupidly wrong.

If I haven’t convinced you and you still plan on persisting in the use of “an historic,” just do yourself a favour and drop the H in your pronunciation. This way, people will wonder why you’re trying to sound British instead of just thinking you don’t understand the rules of speech.


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