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Historic

January 04, 1985

There was an interesting linguistic switcheroo in The Times (Dec. 20). In one story British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was quoted as saying, "It was a historic occasion." In another story a spokesman for the National Park Service said, "It's an historic event."

It's the English who say "an historic" because they drop their "haitches" while we say "a historic" because we pronounce the letter.

To clarify the issue, listen to William and Marry Morris, editors of the Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage: "historical/hysterial--The one thing these two words have in common is the fact that far too many people insist on using the article 'an' before them rather than 'a,' which should be used. Both words begin with a consonant sound, in this case an articulated 'h.' As a result, the article 'a' is called for. In the case of 'honest' and other words in which the 'h' is silent, the article 'an' is proper."

GEORGE JOHNSON

Santa Barbara

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