One begins with a vowel and should therefore have an and not a in front of it. Why is it, then, that ‘such a one’ is what is actually said?

It appears to have been the case when the King James Bible was translated in 1611:

1 Corinthians 5:5

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

(Bible Gateway)

Moreover, the google yield of "such an one" loeb has several instances from the 20th c.

Other questions like this one or this one do not explain why an is obsolete. Was the pronunciation different before? What changed?

One hypothesis would be that earlier orthography was considered to stand above phonology. Is that the case?


From Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language by Seth Lerer (2015)...

Other features of Shakespearean pronunciation include the pronunciation of the word one. Descending from the Old English word an, “one” was the stressed form of what would become, in unstressed positions, the indefinite article a. Our modern pronunciation with the initial glide [wun] did not appear until the eighteenth century.

A related issue discussed on wordinfo.com...

Occasionally in modern writing and speech and regularly in the King James Version of the Bible, an is used before "h" in a stressed syllable, as in an hundred.

  • It is interesting that he takes the phrase an hundred as evidence that the h was not pronounced. I wonder if that is right. – Toothrot Nov 1 '15 at 13:58
  • @Lawrence: Not sure who "he" means there. I've never heard anyone suggest the KJV use of an hundred relates to "cockney-style h-dropping". Nor is it anything to do with the still-current American usage an herb (which imho just reflects lah-di-dah French pronunciation long abandoned by Brits). Eventually only the "regular" rule relating to "initial vowel sound" will prevail, I'm sure. That was the rule for an one anyway; I think an hundred, an historic are down to something different, but I'm not too sure of the "etymology" on that front. – FumbleFingers Nov 1 '15 at 14:09
  • So how was one pronounced? "Own"? "On"? "Un"? – Andrew Leach Nov 1 '15 at 14:31
  • @FumbleFingers, the author of the book you quoted says: ‘It is clear, then, that in Shakespeare’s time[,] “hour” was pronounced without the initial h’, arguing from ‘a_n_ houre’. – Toothrot Nov 1 '15 at 14:42
  • Having seen fairly recent instances of the kind of usage in quæstion I am not entirely convinced by this answer, that it changed as a result of a phonetic change. Unfortunately I cannot recall exactly where those occurrences occurred. – Toothrot Nov 1 '15 at 15:10

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