ADJ Quandry: historic vs historical

What is the difference in usage between HISTORIC and HISTORICAL? And how would you best describe it to a native Mandarin/Taiwanese speaking student?

Also, how come there isn’t a word called STRATEGICAL?

If you don’t know the real reasons, can you make up a good story to explain why that a non-native English speaker would buy? :slight_smile:

My officemates ask me these kind of language questions now and then. They are curious, and I’m out of clever answers these days

I didn’t bother to look it up, so I’m probably wrong, but I use “historic” to describe something of “historical” importance, i.e. a “historic” decision = one that will go down in history.
“Historical” on the other hand just means something to do with history, i.e., to trace your geneology, you would research historical records for information on your forebears.
Or something like that.
Flame away.

From the Collins CD Rom dictionary

[quote]historic - historical
`historic’
You use historic to say that something was important in history, or that it will be regarded as important in the future.
…their historic struggle for emancipation.
…a historic decision.

`historical'
You use historical to say that someone or something really existed or happened in the past, rather than being invented by a writer.
    ...a historical detective.

Historical novels, plays, and films deal with real or imaginary events in the past.
    ...Richard of Bordeaux, a historical play by Gordon Daviot.

Historical occurs in the names of some organizations concerned with the subject of history.
    ...the German Historical Institute.

However, if you want to say that something relates to the teaching of history, you use history in front of another noun. You do not use `historic' or `historical'.
    ...a history book.
    ...a history lesson.

© HarperCollins Publishers.[/quote]

So I was right? Hot diggity! But why did I use i.e. when I should have used e.g.?

What I want to know is: did you get into the whole “a historic”/“an historic” debate as well? I always thought it was “a”, no question… until I noticed newsreaders both in Australia and on BBC World using “an”. I’ve heard the occasional usage on CNN too, although it’s less common. It drives me nuts, but there it is.

Oh, and I reckon strategical not being a proper word is just one of those things, because the English language is, after all, known for its great consistency :? Give it time, it may actually become a word if enough people use it… :slight_smile:

[quote=“daasgrrl”]What I want to know is: did you get into the whole “a historic”/“an historic” debate as well? I always thought it was “a”, no question… until I noticed newsreaders both in Australia and on BBC World using “an”. I’ve heard the occasional usage on CNN too, although it’s less common. It drives me nuts, but there it is.

Oh, and I reckon strategical not being a proper word is just one of those things, because the English language is, after all, known for its great consistency :? Give it time, it may actually become a word if enough people use it… :slight_smile:[/quote]

I get annoyed with “an historian” as well. We use “an” for words that begin with vowel sounds so that the article will be distinguishable from the noun. You don’t need to do that with “historian” since it begins with a consonant.

On the topic of adjectives, I get really annoyed with the misuse of economic/economical. Even in The Economist, I have seen sentences like: “The Republic of Bacardi is having serious economical problems this year.” Economical means thrifty. A Honda Civic can be described as economical relative to a Hummer. Economic problems can’t be described as economical problems.

It’s just the sheer wilful inconsistency of it that bothers me. Does anyone say “an hysterical person” or “an Hispanic person” or even “s/he had an history of drug use”? It’s the same sound! OK, as I said, the English language isn’t known for its consistency, but this usage of “an” is particularly annoying in its exclusivity.

In London, where the vast majority of people tend not to bother pronouncing an initial letter H, “an” is routinely used to cover up the mess that results:

“An 'istoric moment.”
“I’m an 'umble man.”
“I want to buy an 'ouse.”

So, “an” is the preferred word of the uneducated masses. Easy huh? :laughing:

“an” should only be used where the “h” is silent. Cockney pronunciations don’t count. I can’t think of any example except “hors d’oeuvre”.