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In episode one of the National Geographic documentary The Savage Kingdom, there is this line which you hear said (and see in the subtitles) there:

Leopard Rock is fortress and home.

The line reads well, but I am just curious what the phenomenon here is whereby one is permitted to drop the article a or the before nouns fortress and home yet still remain grammatical.

If it were fortress alone, I think it should be:

Leopard Rock is a fortress.

since fortress is a countable noun.

What makes it special and OK to omit the a or the here?

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  • Good question. Is Leopard Rock a fortress, really, or is 'fortress' a metaphor for solid safety? Then it acts as such, but is not such. Not a fortress, but the concept of fortress: Leopard Rock is home (not a home) to many a creature. Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 16:39
  • What is the full context?
    – alphabet
    Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 19:51
  • @alphabet It’s towards the end of the clip I linked to above.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 20:34
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    @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. You're right. I had a bunch of candidates and didn't manage to get them all up there. I'll fix it.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 1, 2023 at 0:13

2 Answers 2

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Leopard rock is fortress and home.

As, with the exception of a few special contexts, all singular nouns must be modified by a determiner of some sort.

"Fortress" is a concept.

It follows that "fortress" is an uncountable noun.

In this case it means "Leopard rock is of the nature of a member of the homogeneous class of things that are described by the noun "fortress".

This distinguishes it from

a fortress = a single example of a fortress.

The fortress = a specific fortress.

Sir Henry's fortress = a fortress under the control of Sir Henry.

Etc.

which are direct descriptions of the building, rather than the nature of the building.

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I suggest the following analysis. The construction is not unusual. For example, a google ngram search of "is friend and lover" shows many examples. Here is one:

Priests in Love
"... but gradually they appear to be replacing his likeness with a new image of God who is friend and lover."

This example is revealing. In monotheisms such as the Catholic Church, God is seen as a defined entity, The (one and only) God. Such an entity must be described adjectivally: having the nature of friend and the nature of lover. There is no need to use the indefinite article to qualify the characteristics of a unique (definite) entity.

Similarly in your example, Leopard Rock is a definite entity so needs no indefinite article attached to its characteristics of being (or of having the nature of) fortress and home.

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    It’s curious how uncommon BE fortress is on its own—but it does occur. One can find language of a century ago like Was this the face that had been fortress of those wraths? Thrice that long ago John Wesley famously wrote My rock and fortress is the Lord, perhaps contributing to language in modern Christian writings like Our Shield of Faith is fortress against the fiery darts of lust of the flesh and the eyes. But it need not always be figurative, let alone Biblical, as seen in The Tower [of London] is, or has been, fortress, palace, and prison. Yet that only works in a series.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 30, 2023 at 18:31

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