Word of the Month – October 2014

David Zapatka

Every month the Splash arrived at our home and the first thing I did was look for the WOTM column. Fascinating! Interesting! Intriguing! Always a great read. I communicated with columnist W. Smith on many occasions when I offered my contributions. When W. Smith told me the column was being discontinued, I was distraught. When W. Smith offered me the opportunity to write the column, I accepted.

My heartfelt thanks go out to W. Smith for many years of pleasurable reading in the Splash. You will be missed.

JoAnn and I travel by Honda Goldwing motorcycle in the summer months logging anywhere from 3,000–10,000 miles. We frequently travel Interstates 40 and 44 which of course takes us along America’s most famous highway, US Route 66, known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road.

All along Route 66 there are signs broadcasting its history and tales. These signs use two seemingly similar words in their descriptions, “historic” and “historical.”

This brings us to this month’s words. Which is correct, historic or historical? Is it Historic Route 66 or is it Historical Route 66? Is this beloved strip of asphalt historic or historical?

To find out we must delve into the meaning of both these words. Historic and historical are both adjectives and are close in meaning but their uses are very different.

The adjective historic means having importance in history or having influence on history. The adjective historical means having taken place in history, from the past or pertaining to history.

This is a historic event means an event that is important in history, e.g., the signing of the Constitution of the United Sates. This is a historical event and is an event that happened in the past.

He was a historic philosopher means he was a philosopher important in history. He was a historical philosopher means he was one who philosophized about history.

So is it Historic Route 66 or Historical Route 66? It is Historic Route 66, a U.S. highway that has much importance in and influence on the history of travel in the US.

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