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I've found both versions, She lives in such-and-such a street AND She lives in such-and-such street

Are both uses of the determiner? Which is the right one?

OED entry for such

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    The full OED's most recent citation for this usage is 1899: It became the custom to ask what coffee~house such-and-such a man frequented, which does have an article, because it could reasonably be replaced by just the single word such. But they also cite Thackeray Newcomes (1855) with Lord and Lady Blank, of Suchandsuch Castle. Which doesn't have an article (because you can't really reduce that one to such - it's more like the adjectival qualifier of unspecified name, placed before rather than after the noun it modifies). Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:32
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    Hamlet - I saw him yesterday, or th'other day, Or then, or then, with such and such. Where today we'd more likely say with so-and-so to reference "'person of unspecified name". But in principle we could include an article/determiner with the modernised version of The Bard's context - with some so-and-so, for example, would definitely amplify the dismissive implications there (even if I know the relevant name, it's so unimportant I won't bother saying it), imho. Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:39
  • @FumbleFingers oed.com/oed2/00241458. Also relevant, (Adj) [before a noun] being the person or thing or the persons or _things indicated: _If any member be late, such member shall be suspended wordreference.com/definition/such
    – GJC
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:11
  • Note that whatever works for such-and-such must be qualified by whatever works with so-and-so, since such and so are effectively the same morpheme. Such is used before nouns, with an article if necessary, while so is used before adjectives. The reduplicated conjoined forms can often be used interchangeably, showing that they're newly derived. Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 16:12
  • @JohnLawler OED so, adv. and conj. oed.com/oed2/00229614
    – GJC
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 16:24

1 Answer 1

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This is interesting, and there does seem to be divided usage. Google ngrams for such and such a street and such and such street (and a check on references given at the link) show that both are used (with various choices of hyphenation), the one containing the article 'a' being five times as common a choice.

This is probably because there is an attempt to conform to standard grammar, though logically 'such and such a' is no better than 'such and such' as a placeholder some would portray as _____ or XXXX.

Collins Cobuild does not analyse such and such more than to call the whole a phrase; when used before a noun, the near-equivalence of 'some' might make some argue for determiner classification. And Collins does not even comment on the fact that a is typically included before a noun. As seen below, the distribution of 'such and such [a]' is fairly wide, not merely prenominal:

such and such [phrase]:

You use such and such to refer to a thing or person when you do not want to be exact or precise. [spoken, vagueness]

  • I said, 'Well what time'll I get to Leeds?' and he said such and such a time but I missed my connection.
  • He'd like to give a course of lectures on such and such a topic.
  • we went to such and such a place [from Webster's]
  • Or that the friend you trusted was going to betray you in some way on such and such a date? [Anthony Masters: Cascades - The Day of the Dead]
  • And so we produce masses of documented research to define a target audience in such and such a demographic. [Stuart Harrison: Better than This]

The last example is more unusual, as 'such and such [a]' is, as Collins adds, usually used in informal contexts.

[re-ordered]

Collins includes examples where 'such and such' is not used before a noun, and the 'a' is inappropriate:

  • What if such and such had happened instead? [used ostensibly as a noun phrase]
  • Father, forgive me for I have sinned, she said, my last confession was such and such ago. [Louise Erdrich: The Last Report on ...] [used ostensibly as a measure phrase]
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  • Relevant info: wordreference.com/definition/such
    – GJC
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:08
  • (Adj) [before a noun] being the person or thing or the persons or things indicated: If any member be late, such member shall be suspended
    – GJC
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:08
  • The full OED lists this usage under Section III, definition 16b Used to indicate or suggest a name, designation, number, or quantity, where the speaker or writer prefers or is obliged to substitute a general phrase for the specific term that would be required in a particular instance. Within which they list examples with and without the article. But for my money, He lives on such-and-such a street is "weird", cos I can't directly replace "such-and-such" by "[name unspecified]" the way I could with "Madonna lived in such-and-such castle". Where syntactically it's a "proper noun". Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:25
  • (In most contexts, the specific term being "a proper noun", imho.) Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 13:27
  • OED oed.com/oed2/00241458
    – GJC
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 17:04

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