Go roll an hoop

What with the way the word historic has been flung around since the election Barack Obama to the presidency, it was bound to draw the language mavens.

Mighty Red Pen addressed one of the most common issues, the differentiation between historic, describing an event from the past that is significant, and historical, describing any past event. A useful distinction worth maintaining.

But the blood pressure starts to soar and the voices go up half an octave when someone asks whether it is better to say a historic event or an historic event. Editrix goes into some detail on the subject, and Bill Walsh is emphatic on it. The people who get thoroughly involved tend to suggest that an historic is suspect, pretentious, affected, un-American. If you say an historic, you probably have an illegal immigrant locked in the basement whom you pay a dollar a week to launder and press your spats.

And who am I to disagree with Bill Walsh and Bryan Garner?

Well, I am a person who says an historic, an hotel, an Hispanic, for a reason. Not all h’s are equal. Words in English beginning with h that are accented on the second syllable are more lightly aspirated than words beginning with h that are accented on the first. If I pronounced the word hotel, as HO-tel, like some rube, I would say a hotel. But I say an hotel — not an ’otel; the h is still audible, but faintly.

So bring me up before the House Committee on Un-American Pronunciation. I’ll obey the subpoena, but I’m not naming names.

That’s my personal preference. My opinion as an editor is that this is one more non-issue that wastes valuable time. If a text passes under my hands that reads a historic, stet; if it reads an historic, stet. Don’t we have more important things to do?



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