Christmas is only a few days away: it’s so close that Christmas Day is now on the 5-day forecast on the local news! Fiona from Franklin Lakes sent a letter to Santa today. Before he could bring himself to answer it, he sent it to me, asking me to help Fiona with her English usage. For the most part, her expression was great! However, Fiona made one foible that left Santa quite flustered.
Fiona mentioned in her letter that she has been watching the weather forecast, and she is concerned about Santa’s safety. “If there is a storm of historical proportions,” Fiona began, “I hope that you and your reindeer will be safe!”
I called Fiona to discuss this sentence. She told me that her intention was to express concern about a potential storm that would be so huge that it would make its way into the history books. I explained to her that “historic” would be the better choice, in this instance. “Historic” refers to something in history that is significant enough to be of note; “historical,” on the other hand, pertains to something that happened in the past but that is not necessarily noteworthy for its uniqueness. In other words, an event such as the attack on Pearl Harbor is a historic event, while my blowing my nose an hour ago was a historical event.
Fiona willingly revised her letter and resent it to Santa, who replied and reassured her that the red light emanating from Rudolph’s nose, along with the newly-installed GPS on the sleigh, would keep the reindeer and the jolly old saint safe.
A happy ending for a gaffe of potentially historic proportions!