UK: Put the Kettle On????

Old Jan 9th, 2005, 01:31 PM
  #181  
 
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m_kingdom2: recently I completed a chapter for my dissertation, and my son commented on the title:

"blah, blah, blah (sparing you the boring details)...An Historical Perspective"

He said it should be "A Historical Perspective" - just as sheila mentioned.

It is generational, and it is still debatable, but my mentor preferred that I use "An" and so I did!
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 01:34 PM
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The content at times was distressing, indeed a woman sitting near to me had to light up mid-performance (which is now banned in cinemas, for fire safety reasons as much as others). However, it had humourous moments, and was very heart felt and had lots of human interest.

Also, it's worth noting that the primary location for the film was in Islington, which has now become a "designer" (in New Labour sense) area. Shoreditch which was once as poor as can be is not the place for those sporting Hoxton fins to congregate.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 01:45 PM
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m-kingdom2 - please dear, translate your last post for us Americans. Truly I do not understand and I read it three times.

Or does one need to have a cuppa of tea to translate : ?? A good 2005 to you.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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The film is set in Islington which has changed markedly since the fifities - it used to be a poorer area, now it's full of media types with money.


As for the lighting up - that's self explanatory I hope.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 02:27 PM
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I was stunned by the film 'Vera Drake'--I saw it before Christmas and can't get it out of my mind. An amazing achievement, I think, of acting, writing, and directing.

In American English, the 'an' before the 'h' is variable.
We don't usually say 'an hotel' though I know the British do, we say we're going to 'a hotel'. However, we
cultivate 'an herb.' And, it's 'a horror.' When the 'h' is pronounced (and we pronounce it in 'hotel'), we use 'a.'

It probably goes back to the Romance languages such as French, when some aitches are considered unsounded, and others not, though you really can't hear any of them.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 02:30 PM
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I was just thinking

we also say 'an historical perspective' but 'he's writing a history of Britain.'
strange.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 02:40 PM
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elaine: Yes, strange ~ a linguistical predicament!
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 03:41 PM
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elaione, I suspect that's because the rhythm tends to make the 'h' in 'an historical' less stressed than the 'h' in 'a history'.

Of course, what's considered 'correct grammar' changes all the time, but I have great difficulty believing that within living memory any school's English class, anywhere, prescribed 'an' before all words beginning with an 'h'. I'd be surprised if anyone could prove otherwise by reference to any of the great English writers of the last 200 or more years. As Sheila puts it (more economically), "absolute rubbish".

m_k2, a final helpful note. If, as I suspect, your aim is to replicate British-English spelling, it may well be 'humour' (not 'humor'), but it's 'humorous' (not 'humourous'). I can sympathise with any American who finds this illogical, though.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 06:27 PM
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It is very rare that I disagree with sheilaritchie but I must challenge her assertion -- which she did trouble to corroborate before posting -- that you can NEVER use "an" to preface a word starting with H.

When the tonic accent falls on the first syllable, the H will be clearly aspirated. (hence: A history)

But it is not so clear when the accent falls later in the word -- "An historical account of an hotel" sounds and looks fine to me.

It may be an archaic or pretentious usage -- it certainly is not customary NA usage -- and I don't do it much myself. But I recognize it and accept it and have seen similar examples in writings of the great stylists -- Henry James, for example.

I cannot quite see writing "An harrowing experience", 'owever.
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 06:50 PM
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William Safire, author of a 'on language'column in the NYTimes for years once addressed this exact example, of a historical or an historical. I can't remember what side he sides with but it's an (a) hysterial thing to ponder!
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Old Jan 9th, 2005, 07:08 PM
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Q: In your [6/24/04] column regarding "back in the day," you quoted [a source's e-mail]: "I teach at ... an historically black college." I believe that [this school] is "a historically" black college. My understanding of the "rule" is that if the "h" is aspirated, it is preceded by an "a," and if the "h" is silent, it is preceded by an "an."

R: I thought so too, but I checked with Fowler's Modern English Usage, 3rd ed., 1996, It says that although "historical" has an aspirated "h," it finds "abundant evidence" of "an historical," and concludes "the choice of form remains open."

Opinion is divided over the form to use before h-words in which the first syllable is unstressed: the thoroughly modern thing to do is to use "a" (never "an&quot together with an aspirated h (a habitual, a heroic, a historical, a Homerica, a hypothesis), but not to demur if others use "an" with minimal or nil aspiration given to the following h (an historic, an horrific, etc.) ... At the present time, especially in written English, there is abundant evidence for the use of "an" before habitual, historian, historic(al), horrific, and horrendous, but the choice of form remains open.
E-mail: onlanguage [at] gmail.com
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 04:32 AM
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Mimi

I chekced in Fowlers and couldn't find anything. Where are your references. What I got came from my trusty Chambers Dictionary
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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I love this kind of thing. When you can't be vacationing in France, come to Fodors, learn how to make tea, and get into an interesting discussion about the English language.

Being married to an English language editor, I have been repeatedly coached that there are certain circumstances where a writer has a choice. The plural of euro (debated on a couple of other threads on Fodors) and the use of serial commas come to mind. Reading cigalechanta's citation from Fowlers suggests that this question of "a" or "an" before a word starting with an "h" is another example.

Where there is a choice, consistency may be more important than the choice itself. If I use a, b, and c commas (which I do), I should use that style throughout whatever it is I am writing. During my working years, I was irritated by my employer's insistence that certain words be capitalized. They seemed to think that capitalizing words made them important. I thought it made a document harder to read. To their credit, they were at least consistent.

Anselm
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 07:35 AM
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Anyone read the book "nice cup of tea and a sit down"?

I read it recently and really enjoyed it though I think it's one of those where you'll either feel the same as me or utterly hate it!
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 07:50 AM
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http://www.nbierma.com/language/column/questions.htm

Sheila !
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 07:58 AM
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http://www.editingandwritingservices...istorical.html
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 08:51 AM
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All these grammar lessons have my head spinning. I think I need to go put the kettle on!
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 09:01 AM
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from cigalechanta's cited website
http://www.editingandwritingservices...istorical.html


"Just do your best to be a good communicator and move on!"
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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For proper design of your tea-tasting experiments make sure to consult R.A. Fisher's Design of Experiments (1935). Determining whether a lady can distinguish between milk added before or after the tea is poured is the classic example of experimental design. A more recent book on the topic is The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutioned Science in the Twentieth Century by David Salsburg.
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 12:34 PM
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elaine - good point. The important thing is to convey your meaning clearly and in a manner pleasing to the ear.

Sheila, the very first article ("a, an&quot in my Fowler's deals with the issue, but it's a 1966 edition I picked up at a second-hand bookshop and have been too cheap to replace. In brief, while "an" has traditionally been used before words beginning with a silent "h", the number of such words has been steadily decreasing, and in Fowlers' view "the distinction ... will no doubt disappear in time". So, 'an hotel' has largely given way to 'a hotel'.

Fowlers' goes on to say, "Meantime speakers who like to say 'an' should not try to have it both ways by aspirating the 'h'." (As in "harrowing", perhaps.)

On the milk-before(after)-the-tea debate: while I don't drink tea I've found that adding milk to instant coffee before pouring in the hot water maks for a mellower flavour (instant coffee needs all the help it can get). This was a tip from my daughter, whose job at the time involved driving an espresso machine.
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