One small step for [a] man
Posted: 11 June 2007 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  1630
Joined  2007-03-21

In my post about the Voltaire quote, I came across the book They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions by Paul F. Boller Jr., John George. 

They make a stunning (to me) point about what Neil Armstrong actually said when he stepped onto the moon.  The article “a” was lost in the transmission back to earth.  What he meant to say is that he, “a man”, was making one small step which constituted a giant leap for mankind.  Maybe everyone else heard it that way.  This is new to me.

The excerpt is from Amazon.

Posted: 11 June 2007 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  326
Joined  2007-02-24

This has been discussed on the history, news, etc., channels for several years. I saw it live. I thought at the time he said “a man”, but it was vague. It was not the best sound back then on our old TV, and the space technology was not great either; you could hear him breathing and there were other sounds that made the quote somewhat unclear. But, there didn’t appear to be a long pause in the replay of it; only a very short one. And, maybe long enough to eliminate the “a”.

Then again, maybe my memory is not very clear. But when I first read the quote in the papers, I was confused. The written quote wasn’t what I thought I heard. Did he slide over the long “a” and make it more of a quick “uh”, or did I make it up in my mind because that was what I thought it should be?

I’ll never know. When I hear the recording over, it doesn’t seem to be there. So, I suppose I inserted it, but I swear I heard it that night.

I think Armstrong has stated that he did say the “a”. But, if you think about it, one can say, “One small step for (uh) man.”, and it can virtually disapper if said quickly.

[ Edited: 11 June 2007 10:48 PM by Eyehawk ]
Posted: 12 June 2007 06:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  6483
Joined  2007-01-03

This has been extensively analyzed again and again. Despite the claims of some to having “found” the missing “a”, it was not lost in transmission; Armstrong did not pronounce the article--at least not in any way that could be remotely considered as a separate syllable (maybe a brief (subsecond) exhalation, but that’s about it). See

He just flubbed the intended quote. But can you blame him? I’m surprised he remembered any of it at all.

(And the words were scripted by Armstrong. He consulted one of the NASA public relations people, but the words were his and not the creation of the government PR department.)

[ Edited: 12 June 2007 06:11 AM by Dave Wilton ]
Posted: 12 June 2007 06:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Total Posts:  3101
Joined  2007-01-30

Snopes has an excellent piece on this, analyzing in some detail.

Just seen Dave’s Language Log link, which is far more thorough than the Snopes one.

[ Edited: 12 June 2007 06:13 AM by aldiboronti ]
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