Can anyone help me on this little question that foxed me the other night?
The eldest was reading out her homework to me last night. She had to write an estate agent's type of advert for Hampton Court, a local former Royal Palace over 500 years old. For the benefit of any Americans I'll explain that an estate agent is a realtor and a Royal Palace is a place of residence of a member of the Royal Family. And yes, all of us in England know each member of the Royal Family personally, apart from Caroline Aherne, who I've only seen on TV.
She started reading:
"It could be used as a theme park, a multiplex cinema complex (my ideas, of which I am rather proud), a hotel or a hospital."
Generally I'm not much use as far as homework is concerned. I'm ok with music stuff and I would imagine that, as Dad's go, I'm pretty useful to have around when you have to do drum practice and drum related stuff, which happens relatively often. I'm not one to blow my own trumpet though, as my strengths lie more on the percussive side of things.
But this time I spotted something that I thought might benefit from my advice. I proceeded to point out one of those idiosyncrasies of the English language that we all know and love.
"Did you know that it should actually be "an hotel" not " a hotel"?" I said. (I hope you liked my rather excessive, but wholly correct, use of quotation marks there).
"No, why's that Dad?"
"I don't know really, but it just is. Even though most of us say "a hotel" it should actually be "an hotel, especially in writing". I said.
"OK I'll change it. So should it be "an hospital" too?" she asked.
Ah, I thought. She had me stumped.
"Errm I think so. Errm actually I'm not sure about that. Errm actually I don't think so." I replied, with considerably less certainty than I may have implied.
So you linguistic types out there. Does anyone know for sure? Should it be "an hospital", "an horse", and so on, for anything beginning with an aitch, or does this rule only apply to hotels.
What's the official ruling on this?
After all I don't want to be the one who is known to discriminate against horses or hospitals.
Or even hoppers for that matter.
Thanks in advance.