Monday, July 23, 2007

HDTV — A or An?
This appeared in ST Life! on July 21, 2007. Can you spot any errors?

Let’s start with the most obvious: all instances of a HDTV are wrong. Since the abbreviation is unpronounceable (hence, it is not an acronym), it is read out in full, as ‘aitch-dee-tee-vee’. Because the string begins in a vowel, we need the indefinite article an rather than a: hence, an HDTV. Similarly, we ought to say an HDB flat, not *a HDB flat.

The writer’s use of a suggests that, like most Singaporeans, he pronounces H as ‘haitch’. (This pronunciation is Irish, and is often attributed to the Irish nuns teaching in Singapore schools in colonial times.)

Things are a bit different, however, if an abbreviation is not intended to be read out the way it is written. To illustrate: StdE feature and SgE feature are intended to be read out as ‘Standard English feature’ and ‘Singapore English feature’, not ‘ess-tee-dee-ee/ess-gee-ee feature’. Therefore, a StdE/SgE feature is preferred, not an StdE/SgE feature.

The other errors in the article concern modals. The Standard English versions are given in brackets: You’d also need (You’ll also need); you don’t get (you wouldn’t/won’t get).


Michirure said...

Hmmm.. Does that mean all the words starting with 'aitch' would have to use the article 'an' in front? Oh dear, I have been pronouncing 'H' as 'haitch' all the while!

So is it 'an hatched egg' or 'a hatched egg'?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

No -- 'an' is used before a word beginning in a vowel sound (not spelling). 'HDTV' as a 'word' begins in a vowel sound, because the letter 'H' is pronounced as 'aitch' -- hence it needs 'an'.

However, it's 'a hatched egg' because the word 'hatched' begins in a consonant -- the 'h' is pronounced.

Vinodh said...

And shouldn't it be "I've got" or simply "I have"?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Absolutely -- thanks, Vinodh.

(I think 'I got ---' is OK colloquially, though, perhaps in American English rather than BrE.)