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I normally say "an herb" or "an honor", where the is commonly dropped. Before most words i would ... or "it was an horrific act". There may be others, but these are the few i think of off hand.

I speak (and therefore write) this way myself. In cases of the aspired H, I use "a" if the accent in the next word is on the first syllable, or if the word is emphasized, or is derived from Greek.

A history
A =historical= event
A holographic representation
Your milage may vary.

Stefano
Children left unattended will be given a cappuccino and a free puppy.
Using an obsolescent usage doesn't make you yourself obsolescent. It makes you eccentric.

A little harsh! To qualify as eccentric, I'd say he'd have to use obsolete usages. Note that a ... for "historical", I seem to be at an inconsistent transitional stage. I feel sure I don't use it in writing.

It's still in much more widespread use in the US than in Britain or Australia, apparently. Maybe it was drummed into them at school.

There is probably a historical reason for it.

Stephen
Lennox Head, Australia
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Does it mean that one can choose a/an depending on /their/ pronunciation of a word that admits two? I would never write/say "an herb" (the orrors!), but it should be OK for somebody that pronounces it "urb"?

I'm curious where you live or come from that "erb" would be unthinkable. I'm from Maine (USA). I always heard and spoke and heard less frequently. I think here may be largely a case of people conforming to spelling. Unlike you, i can hardly imagine myself writing or saying "a herb".
Old Merriam unabridged editions had first for "herb" itself, but preferred for "herbal", and offered only for "herbage", "herbaceous", and others. Century had first for only "herb" and "herbage", the rest only . first for all.
In their latest Collegiate, Merriam-Webster shows for "herb" . They show for all other forms of the word. Encarta shows almost the same, except no designation for Brit. usage. Random House shows for "herb" , first for "herbage, herbal, herb-of-grace, herby", but the opposite for all other forms. American Heritage shows for "herb, herbal, herbage", but only for "herbaceous".

Not that we need to go by dictionary documentations. They need to go by us. They each seem to have polled different people. No one ever polled me.
Oh, by the way:

ER Lyon
But while i will say "a history book", i would ... gave me an hello" or "it was an horrific act"..

I speak (and therefore write) this way myself. In cases of the aspired H, I use "a" if the accent ... syllable, or if the word is emphasized, or is derived from Greek. A history A =historical= event A holographic representation

So when would you use "an" ? How often is the word not emphasized ? (I'm thinking "Hotel 6", but "hotel" is not one of my "an" words.) And what does Greek derivation have to do with your speech habits ?
ER Lyon
The proper resolution to your dilemma lies in:
To An or Not to An
http://xahlee.org/Periodic dosage dir/t2/20040717 an.html

Xah
=E2=88=91 http://xahlee.org /
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
(from FAQ):
Using an obsolescent usage doesn't make you yourself obsolescent. It makes you eccentric.

A little harsh!

I don't think so. Mr. Wise is educated enough to know that regional and speech-group pronunciations differ and that being judgmental about it is silly. If my usage is uncommon, the word "eccentric" literally does apply, so i don't take it as a harsh comment. It isn't really about "a" and "an". He was using my ironic use of the word "obsolescent" to obliquely josh me in a general way.
To qualify as eccentric, I'd say he'd have to use obsolete usages.

If this is true, then i *do* qualify, since i will use an obsolete usage if it suits me - although i might consider whether my audience could conceivably understand it. I don't regard any word or usage that exists in our language world (of people, literature, all media) to be absolutely obsolete, but available for us to use as we please.
Note that a few educated speakers still don't sound the "h" in "hotel": I try the "h" every now and then, but it still feels wrong on my own lips, though I don't even notice it from others.

Interesting ! I'm not sure i ever dropped the or used "an" on "hotel".
On "an+weak aspiration" for "historical", I seem to be at an inconsistent transitional stage. I feel sure I don't use it in writing.

On the road to conformity ? Where are you ? What do you usually hear ?
ER Lyon
On "an+weak aspiration" for "historical", I seem to be at an inconsistent transitional stage. I feel sure I don't use it in writing.

It's still in much more widespread use in the US than in Britain or Australia, apparently. Maybe it was drummed into them at school.

Here's a chance to use your new Macquarie. What does it say ?

ER Lyon
It's still in much more widespread use in the US than in Britain or Australia, apparently. Maybe it was drummed into them at school.

Here's a chance to use your new Macquarie. What does it say ? ER Lyon

The advice to Australians, via Macquarie and numerous usage guides, has long been that "an" before "historical" is as out of date as the pronunciation without "h". Both were already almost dead in the 1980s.

Now Macquarie says that "an" should only be used by those few speakers who still pronounce historical it without the "h". Similarly for any other word, such as "hotel". It gives only one pronunciation for each of these two words.
It is no longer a question here. "An historical" is antiquated.

Stephen
Lennox Head, Australia
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Does it mean that one can choose a/an depending on ... it should be OK for somebody that pronounces it "urb"?

I'm curious where you live or come from that "erb" would be unthinkable. I'm from Maine (USA). I always heard ... by us. They each seem to have polled different people. No one ever polled me. Oh, by the way:

That lhas always been my understanding. After speaking American English for years when I was working in New York I was rather startled to hear a person whom I assumed to be well educated say "Herbs". Not English, a Kiwi, near enough.
There is the very plausible view that the addition of the "h" to the word was deliberate, in order to de-Frenchify it. IIRC the Poms and Frogs were in some sort of disupute in the early part of the 19th century.

Shalom & Salam
Izzy
It is not possible to right ancient wrongs without creating modern wrongs.

- PS Kelly
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