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While looking at the search results for "a 20/20 vision" in a question on ELL asking whether there should be an article before 20/20 vision, I noticed that many of the results that were the correct context and from sources that were not obviously written by non-native speakers seemed to be grouped between the 1920s and 1960s. For example,

In that state you must have a 20 / 20 vision in one eye , or a 20 / 30 vision in the better eye and at least 20 / 40 vision in the poorer eye (Source from 1935)

Image of text transcribed below

Don't let a 20/20 vision lull you into a false sense of eye security. It's a common misconception, say University of Chicago eye specialists, that a 20/20 finding means normal vision. (Source from 1955)

I attempted to use Google's NGram viewer to get a better look, but I struggled with getting it to recognize the syntax to handle the "/" properly and couldn't get it to return meaningful results showing the contexts where the phrase was detected. The examples I could find often freely mixed using the indefinite article and the zero article in the same sentence, and looking at the image of the text, it wasn't an OCR error.

Image of text transcribed below

With a 20/20 vision in each eye, the stop sign as well as the word "STOP" could be seen distinctly at 255 ft., both eyes open. With 20/30 vision in each eye it was visible at 200 ft. With 20/70 vision it was visible at 100ft...

Prior to looking at the examples, I thought that an article shouldn't be used vision measurements like "20/x vision". Now, I'm not so sure.

Is it acceptable to use either the indefinite article or zero article with a vision measurement in modern AmE, for example, "The pilot had a 20/20 vision in both eyes." If not, did it used to be acceptable and the usage evolved away from using an article? Is there a difference in BrE?

Because of my difficulties searching the corpora available to me, I feel like I may be interpreting a few spurious results as more important than they are, but I'd like to know one way or the other.

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    Honestly, I think the example you give is just an error. "20/20" has the effect of an adjective, and it is just as incorrect to saw "with a good vision in each eye" as it is to say "with a 20/20 vision in each eye." So your view that the indefinite article is not needed is correct, despite the counter example you found. At best I'd say the article was using a figure of speech, where "20/20 vision" meant "excellent visual capability". So "With an excellent visual capability in each eye." This does seem to be what the author means, but it is certainly a jarring phrase to my native ear.
    – Fraser Orr
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 18:50
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    You could check using a Google search for the expanded versions: "with [a] twenty-twenty vision". The anarthrous version is far more idiomatic (notice that there are quite a few false positives such as 'Kick off the year with a Twenty-Twenty Vision Workshop', and arguably lyrics). Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 18:58
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    “20/20 vision” without article appears to be more commonly used google.com/search?q=a+20/…
    – user 66974
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 19:29
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    That seems unlikely, given that (whether in digits or in words), twenty-twenty / 20-20 vision wasn't a common collocation until after WW2. Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 19:52
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    Apologies; one needs four 'wordsworths' apparently for << twenty-twenty >> on Google ngrams, which is prohibitive. One is stuck with raw Google searches, Google Books, and other corpora, possibly examining individual results. Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 20:00

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