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May 1 2013   5:20PM GMT

A homage or an homage?



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
Tags:
a or an
Affectations
CIO
Google poll
pronunciation

Which is correct?
The monument, built to resemble a giant iPhone, was created as _______ to Steve Jobs.
a. an homage
b. a homage


Answer: Either, depending on how you pronounce “homage.”

Explanation:

I pronounce it ohm-ahj, and seeing it spelled as “a homage” makes me hear it in hillbilly. But that’s just me, and I do not rule the Internets.

The New York Times doesn’t either, but they certainly come much closer to global dominance than I do, so let’s see what Ben Zimmer (@bgzimmer) has to say:

The New York Times style guide does not specifically address the word homage, and in such matters the copy desk typically turns to Webster’s New World Dictionary for guidance. As with other leading American dictionaries, Webster’s New World currently recognizes two equally accepted pronunciations of the word: either HOM-ij or OM-ij. Since the pronunciation with “h” is listed first, that would favor “a homage” over “an homage.” (The Times has not been terribly consistent on this score, however. Since 2001, “a homage” has appeared in the paper 500 times, but “an homage” has appeared 407 times.) > Read more

OK. No help there.

The Grammarphobia Blog reports on the increasingly common use of the French spelling, hommage, which would always take “an” as the article because there’s no question about its pronunciation. On the other hand, it may be seen as an affectation beyond that of just pronouncing it in the French manner.  So we’re left with “make your choice and take your chances.”

Let’s try a Google poll:

An homage: 1,680,000

A homage: 978,000

Google poll results fairly decisive – maybe I do rule the Internets, after all. All right then — let’s stick with “an homage,” kids.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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