There's a question in a forum I frequent, and I'm trying to decide whether "the average" or "an average" is appropriate in its title.
Let's say the question is:
"Why is the average Canadian more polite than the average American?" [see note].
Another member of the forum feels that this is incorrect grammar and wants it to be changed to:
"Why is an average Canadian more polite than an average American?".
I disagree on both counts with him: I don't think the original question was grammatically incorrect, and I don't think the edited version conveys the same question as the original. However, I only have a vague sense of the difference, that "the average Canadian" talks about the average of all people in that society, whereas "an average Canadian" refers to a particular segment of the society, the segment which is nearest to the average (in some measure) of the society.
Is the original title correct, and does the edited version convey the same meaning as the original? What exactly is the difference between "an average" and "the average" in this use case?
[Note: The original question was equally loaded and stereotyping, which is one reason I'm not linking to it here.]