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ARTICLE. A inserted before numeral adjectives and many

A was frequently inserted before a numeral adjective, for the purpose of indicating that the objects enumerated are regarded collectively as one. We still say "a score," "a fo(u)rt(een)-night." But we also find: “An eight days after these sayings.” Luke ix. 28. “A two shilling or so.” B. J. E. in &c. i. 4 ad fin. “'Tis now a nineteen years agone at least.” B. J. Case is altered. Also in E. E.: “An five mile.” HALLIWELL.

This usage is not common in Shakespeare, except after "one."

“But one seven years.

The a is omitted in

“But this our purpose now is twelve-month old.

Compare

“This three mile.

The a in "a many men," "a few men," is perhaps thus to be explained. Compare "This nineteen years" (M. for M. i. 3. 21), with "This many summers" (Hen. VIII. iii. 2. 360). So

“A many merry men.

“A many thousand warlike French.

So Hen. V. iv. 1. 127; iv. 3. 95. And still more curiously:

“But many a many foot of land the worse.

Some explain "a many" by reference to the old noun "many," "a many men," for "a many (of) men." And the word is thus used:

“A many of our bodies.

“O thou fond many, with what loud applause
Didst thou beat heaven.

“In many's looks.

So perhaps A. W. iv. 5. 55. Add "their meiny," Lear, ii. 4. 35.

Nor can it be denied that in E. E. "of" is often omitted in such phrases as "many manner (of) men," "a pair (of) gloves," &c. just as in German we have "diese Art Mensch." But we also say "a few men" (an expression that occurs as early as Robert of Brunne), and "few" seems to have been an adjective.

It is probable that both the constructions above-mentioned are required to explain this use of a. Thus "a hundred men" is for "a hundred (of) men," but in "a twelvemonth," "a fortnight," "twelve" and "fourteen" are not regarded as simple nouns, but as compound nouns used adjectively. Compare the double use of "mille," "millia," in Latin.

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