Election 2008: two linguistic moments

This is my personal blog, not a topical blog, but I find myself unable to say anything terribly original or interesting about the election per se. Like many Californians, I am thrilled by Obama’s election, and terribly disappointed that it looks like Prop 8 may pass. However! They have not counted my ballot yet (vote-by-mail ballots submitted on Election Day have not been counted; more than 3 million ballots remain to be counted) so I will hold out a small hope yet. Other smaller happinesses (Prop 1A, Prop 2) abound. So, I resort to interesting linguistics:

“It felt very, like, moving.”

I heard this on the Caltrain shuttle tonight, and it constitutes one amusing linguistic tidbit regarding the election. No doubt I’ve said things that sounded equally empty-headed because I put ‘like’ in at an inopportune moment, but this one struck me as funny.

The other interesting linguistic bit was McCain’s use of “an historic” in his speech, and what happened to it afterwards. We were watching Fox News at the time (why? I don’t know) and they were putting pull quotes in the little “Alert” box. When they did this, they changed it to “a historic moment”. MSNBC, though, has the correct version in their story.

“An historic” is an interesting pattern. I don’t use it; it’s almost exclusively used by older people, who I think learned, or were explicitly taught, to use “an” before words starting with H (that are not stressed on the first syllable, a restriction I was not aware of explicitly until looking it up for this entry). It’s described well on this page. The origin is from British h-dropping, which later receded, leaving this little island of confusion. I was surprised to see Fox News ‘correcting’ McCain’s correct, if less common, usage. Did they do it for familiarity? Or because they really thought he misspoke?

Comments are closed.