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Dear People raised in the UK or Canada, and other people who like filling out polls:

Which of the following would you normally use?

an historian
a historian

Which of the following would you normally use?

an historical figure
a historical figure

Languages are challenging, not least because they keep changing. "an historian" and "an historical figure" were some of the British grammatical quirks I got down early.

Only now, the internet tells me, times, they are a changin'. It's okay to use "a" instead of "an" for histor* words in British Englishes. I would like some more evidence on the subject one way or the other.


Feb. 10th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
I'm not only Australian, but someone just identified me on Facebook as the real me for using 'an' (other Gillians don't, it appears). I was taught that whether a consonant is needed before an 'hi' depends on how the 'h' is sounded in the dialect, and in Australian English it's aspirated, but only very softly, so it's 'an.' We ought to say 'an herb' but it's often 'a herb' because the 'h' in herb is so very strong in our dialect and because we react quite strongly to the standard US pronunciation of 'herb'. That 'h' is almost non-existent in most North American English, which means I keep wanting to hear 'a nerb.'
Feb. 10th, 2011 11:04 am (UTC)
Gillian in the UK is very much a name of a specific period - almost all those I know are somewhere between 45 and 58. I don't know anyone in my general circle/age group who uses "an" for hotel, historian or herb. The latter has a particularly strong "h" in most of the UK, so it's not surprising. Yet it comes, of course, from the French "herbe", where the "h" is never pronounced. US practice may well be fossilised, like the use of "gotten" as a past participle.

I'm Gillian too, though only my mother uses my full name.
Feb. 10th, 2011 11:08 am (UTC)
Whereas the only Gillian I've met in the US was only a couple of years older than me.
Feb. 10th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
As is this Canadian Gillian.
Feb. 11th, 2011 10:48 am (UTC)
And I turn 50 this year so I exactly fit the UK Gillian demographic. This makes entire sense, as Australia was still very British in 1961, and Melbourne particularly so.