Below are two examples of words and phrases that are misused by the know-it-alls in the mainstream media.

Most of the media moguls, I find, are simply copycats who hear one notable newscaster use a term and they “borrow” it then perpetuate it without ever taking the time to simply look it up.

Aren’t these people supposed to know what is and isn’t correct since they apply grammar and employ words, terms, and phrases for a living?

I’m sure they won’t read this instruction either, but at least you’ll know when they screw up. I have substantiated these examples using the Oxford English Dictionary. I’m sure some of you have heard of it.

1. ‘Historic’ or ‘Historical’?

Historic and historical are used in slightly different ways. Historic means ‘famous or important in history’, as in a historic occasion, whereas historical means ‘concerning history or historical events’, as in historical evidence; thus a historic event is one that was very important, whereas a historical event is something that happened in the past.

2. Is the Correct Phrasing ‘A Historic Event’ or ‘An Historic Event’?

How many times have we heard the MSM clones say “An historic…” rather than “A historic…”?

People often believe that they should use an indefinite instead of definite article in front of words like historic, horrific, or hotel. Are they right or wrong? Should you say ‘an historic event’ or ‘a historic event’? (While we’re on the subject of definite vs. indefinite articles, how many newscasters are the genuine article?)

An is the form of the indefinite article that is used before a spoken vowel sound: it doesn’t matter how the written word in question is actually spelled. So, we say ‘an honor’, ‘an hour’, or ‘an heir’, for example, because the initial letter ‘h’ in all three words is not actually pronounced. By contrast we say ‘a hair’ or ‘a horse’ because, in these cases, the ‘h’ is pronounced.

Let’s go back to those three words that tend to cause problems: historic, horrific, and hotel. If hotel was pronounced without its initial letter ‘h’ (i.e. as if it were spelled ‘otel’), then it would be correct to use an in front of it. The same is true of historic and horrific. If horrific was pronounced ‘orrific’ and historic was pronounced ‘istoric’ then it would be appropriate to refer to ‘an istoric occasion’ or ‘an orrific accident’. In the 18th and 19th centuries, people often did pronounce these words in this way.

Today, though, these three words are generally pronounced with a spoken ‘h’ at the beginning and so it’s now more logical to refer to ‘a hotel’, ‘a historic event’, or ‘a horrific accident’.


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