A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

One small step for a man

It’s looking as if Neil Armstrong did say “One small step for a man…” rather than “One small step for man…”; this is what he has always maintained as his intent (Houston Chronicle story; via /.).

Perhaps someday historians will correct it again to “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for humanity.”

Update: I should have been a bit more skeptical, I think. At least taken a closer look at the data, which David Beaver has now done in a post on Language Log. Thanks, David.

Update 2: Mark Liberman presents more evidence:

My conclusion: Neil Armstrong apparently meant to say “for a man”. And perhaps he produced an unusually rapid performance of the “for a” part, with a brief syllabic /r/ followed by a brief and very weakly de-rhoticized schwa. But it seems much more likely that what he actually said was just what everyone has always heard, namely “for man”.


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