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  1. #21

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    Squibble, I actually do say "an hysterical reaction" and "an hispanic", although I don't use an with the other examples you mention.

  2. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squibble View Post
    I do not understand why anyone other than a Cockney would ever use the article "an" before "historic" or "historical." No one would say "an History student," "an hiss," "an hysterical reaction," "an Hispanic," or "an hysterectomy." So why would "an historical novel" ever be correct?
    There are lots of US native accents that are based on older British accents, so it makes perfect sense that someone in, say, eastern Mass. might say "an 'istoric."

    And I would actually say, "an 'isterical reaction", actually. I also believe that I do say, "an 'ispanic".
    And so, dear Lord, it is with deep sadness that we turn over to you this young woman, whose dream to ride on a giant swan resulted in her death. Maybe it is your way of telling us... to buy American.

  3. #23

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    Of course it's important to mention that with my accent, the man, Herb, is always HHHHerb. Not 'erb. But the vegitation is 'erb.
    And so, dear Lord, it is with deep sadness that we turn over to you this young woman, whose dream to ride on a giant swan resulted in her death. Maybe it is your way of telling us... to buy American.

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by antmanb View Post
    I thought there was some archaic rule about an "h" being a form of semi vowel that meant "an" was correct before anything beginning with an "h" whether you pronounce the "h" or not.

    I've certainly heard presenters talk about "an historic event" rather than "an 'istoric event".

    I've never really understood why Americans say 'erb or 'erbal, especially since most people i've heard do it would have a cup of hot 'erbal tea at their hotel - and only drop the 'h' in herbal?
    As another poster mentioned, whether or not the initial "h" is sounded depends on from which language English took the word, which ruling body/nation was influencing the elites and their speech at the time, and I'd also add re: the colonies - when the immigrants left the UK, and from where. So although there is a logic there re: why the initial h in one word is pronounced and in another is not, native speakers aren't aware of it, and they just speak as they speak.

    Believe me, Hhherb has a cup of 'erbal tea all the time, where I'm from, and no one thinks anything of it.

    Another pronunciation thing that always surprised me is that the name Graham or Graeme seems to be pronounced like gramme as opposed to the British pronunciation of it as two syllables (gray-am).
    Likewise, when I lived in Ireland, people pronounced Billy Joel's last name as "Jo-elle". Two syllables. In the US, it's one.
    And so, dear Lord, it is with deep sadness that we turn over to you this young woman, whose dream to ride on a giant swan resulted in her death. Maybe it is your way of telling us... to buy American.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squibble View Post
    I do not understand why anyone other than a Cockney would ever use the article "an" before "historic" or "historical." No one would say "an History student," "an hiss," "an hysterical reaction," "an Hispanic," or "an hysterectomy." So why would "an historical novel" ever be correct?
    Yes, but we say things like "It's an honor to be here, even if I can only stay an hour."

    If you drop the h, the words begin with a vowel sound and use "an" as the article.

    "An hisstoric" would be wrong, even if the BBC does it , although I've heard some presenters who only slightly aspirate the h, which would make it a bit trickier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Willy View Post
    Someone here at work thought that you use "an" when the next word starts with vowel.
    That's sort of true, but then you have words like unicorn, which starts with a vowel with an initial sound that is pronounced like a y. Even though the word starts with a vowel, you would still say "a unicorn" and not "an unicorn" because of the pronunciation.

    "An x-ray" as used in bardtoob's link would be an example of the opposite, in which you have a consonant, but the initial sound is that of a vowel--ex.
    Trolling dates all the way back to 397 B.C. - People began following Plato around and would make fart noises after everything he said.

  6. #26
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    Thanks for your input, everyone. This is really interesting!

  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by GarrAarghHrumph View Post



    Likewise, when I lived in Ireland, people pronounced Billy Joel's last name as "Jo-elle". Two syllables. In the US, it's one.
    I respectfully disagree on this; I always hear (and pronounce) his name as two syllables here in the US, although the break between the syllables is very very slight. I, for one, cannot pronounce it as one syllable.

  8. #28

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    At least in the Rocky Mountain US area, you'd sound stuck up if you said, "an historical event."

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJH View Post
    Squibble, I actually do say "an hysterical reaction" and "an hispanic", although I don't use an with the other examples you mention.
    Quote Originally Posted by GarrAarghHrumph View Post
    There are lots of US native accents that are based on older British accents, so it makes perfect sense that someone in, say, eastern Mass. might say "an 'istoric."

    And I would actually say, "an 'isterical reaction", actually. I also believe that I do say, "an 'ispanic".


    Why?

    It makes no sense to use "an" before "historical" but "a" before "history," which (obviously) has the same root, or "an" before "hysterical," but "a" before "hysterectomy," which, likewise, has the same root.

  10. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squibble View Post


    Why?

    It makes no sense to use "an" before "historical" but "a" before "history," which (obviously) has the same root, or "an" before "hysterical," but "a" before "hysterectomy," which, likewise, has the same root.
    Well, it does make some sense, because in the noun forms the first syllable is accented and therefore the initial h sound is stronger, whereas in the adjective forms the stress is on the second syllable so the first syllable and its h sound are weaker.

  11. #31

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    Squibble, we need an expert in language acquisition in young children. Few people reason out grammatical construction and how to pronounce words in their primary language. We just speak according to the rubric that our brains acquired from infancy through childhood. Put the palm of your hand about an inch in front of your mouth and say the word spill and then the word pill. You probably don't aspirate the p in spill, but you do aspirate the p in pill. Neither word in spelled with an h. When I say the word hysterical, I don't aspirate the h, but when I say the word hysterectomy, I do aspirate the h. GarrAarghHrumph is right. It would take a regional linguist to explain why.

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by GarrAarghHrumph View Post
    It's 'erb where I grew up near Boston. And oddly enough, get this - it's "hhhhistorical" with the H, but it's "an 'istorical event."

    I've just tested a bunch of my friends from home, and they all do this, as do I and my husband.
    grew up in NJ and I learned (and say) the same thing. On NPR news last week, they said "a historical event" and I was weirded out.
    Sit vis nobiscum.
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  13. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by emason View Post
    I respectfully disagree on this; I always hear (and pronounce) his name as two syllables here in the US, although the break between the syllables is very very slight. I, for one, cannot pronounce it as one syllable.
    Is this a northeastern thing? For "Joel" to be one syllable?

    Now you've got me saying this aloud. I think it is more like "Jo-uhl", but the second syllable is very very short and well connected to the first. It's like the second syllable is slurred into the first. But in Ireland, they said it more like "Joe-elle", the woman's name. Very pronounced second syllable.
    And so, dear Lord, it is with deep sadness that we turn over to you this young woman, whose dream to ride on a giant swan resulted in her death. Maybe it is your way of telling us... to buy American.

  14. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by GarrAarghHrumph View Post
    Likewise, when I lived in Ireland, people pronounced Billy Joel's last name as "Jo-elle". Two syllables. In the US, it's one.
    Quote Originally Posted by GarrAarghHrumph View Post
    Is this a northeastern thing? For "Joel" to be one syllable?

    Now you've got me saying this aloud. I think it is more like "Jo-uhl", but the second syllable is very very short and well connected to the first. It's like the second syllable is slurred into the first. But in Ireland, they said it more like "Joe-elle", the woman's name. Very pronounced second syllable.
    I was going to say that I'd never heard his surname pronounced Jo-elle before but I think i would always say it more the second way you describe like Jo-uhl with the syllable-and-a-half (!) pronunciation.

    I think with names though you should always take your cue from how that person says their own name, so i find it strange when people put their own emphasis on someone else's name. How does Billy Joel say his name?

    Ant

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