Word Wednesday: Storms of Historic Proportions

hurricane with figures from history in it
This is what I think of every time I hear the words 'historical hurricane'.

It’s been awhile since I got really pedantic on here but it’s happening today. I was going to write this post last week but then decided that the issue really wasn’t *that* bad and just ranted a bit to some Facebook friends. In the past two days however, I’ve heard the phrase “historical storms” at least 5 times on 2 different television networks and a radio news broadcast and it needs to stop.

I realize that not everybody is as into history as I am and that may explain some of the confusion surrounding these terms. Historic and historical are terms I’ve become very familiar with over the years as a history major but it’s quite possible others don’t realize they’re not interchangeable. (Although major news networks have editors who should know this sort of thing). They are both adjectives, which undoubtedly doesn’t help the matter, but the main difference is this:

Historical is always used to describe events that occurred in the past (and not the recent past), while historic can be used to describe both events in the past and current events that will become important to history in the future. Thus a hurricane can be historic but is not historical – unless it is swirling figures from history around near the eye of the storm.

hurricane with figures from history in it
This is what I think of every time I hear the words ‘historical hurricane’.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things it’s a small error, and I know in time these hurricanes will be historical events but that time is not now and every time I am watching or listening to the news and hear about how much damage the current “historical hurricane” is causing I’m going to think about historical figures being swept up in a hurricane and deposited on random islands / territories. Because it at least brings a little levity to an otherwise horrific situation.

Historical (his·tor·i·cal) Adjective

  1. Something of, relating to, or having the character of history or past events.
  2. Something belonging to the past, not the present.

Historic (his·tor·ic) Adjective

  1. Something famous or important in history
  2. An occasion or person having great and lasting importance.


By koalateagirl

Jenn Annis is a writer, editor, historian, special needs advocate, and tireless defender of the Oxford comma. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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