Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Lost word in Neil Armstrong's ‘mankind' quote?
Thread poster: Edward Potter

Edward Potter  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 26, 2012

First of all, I would like to say farewell to one of my NASA brothers, the greatest of them all, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82. R.I.P. Neil Armstrong.

Now, let's get to a linguistic issue regarding Mr. Armstrong in the most momentous moment in the history of mankind: the first moonwalk. Armstrong averred, and I quote:

"That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.

I'm sorry, but that doesn't really make a lot of sense. A small step for man? How can man, or the entirety of mankind, take a small step? And why use its synonym in the second part of the sentence, leading to a redundancy? Step-leap, man-mankind, one-one. The only real difference between the two parts of the sentence is small-giant.

Did Neil Armstrong screw up?


 

gbaydar
Local time: 04:02
English to Turkish
+ ...
His mind must be busy with something else Aug 26, 2012

Like watching his step getting down the ladder.

 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:02
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I remember reading somewhere... Aug 26, 2012

...that he had originally intended to say, "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." This would have made more sense.

Thus, it seems that the intended sense could be summarized as follows:
"I, an individual specimen of the human race, have just taken a small step down the ladder of the lunar module and have set foot on the moon for the first time, and said step represents a great leap forward in terms of the history of human accomplishment."

So, to answer your question, he probably did screw up, but I think his statement was understood in the way he intended.


 

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 04:02
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
One Small Question Though Aug 26, 2012

Were those his own words, or was it a script given by NASA to be read by Neil Armstrong?

 

Ildiko Santana  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:02
Member (2002)
Hungarian to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Please edit the title of this topic Aug 26, 2012

Edward Potter wrote:

Did Neil Armstrong screw up?


I don't believe he did. The quote that you decided to dissect today, the day after Mr. Armstrong's passing, is perfect in every sense. There is an enormous difference between "[a] man" (one individual) and "mankind" (all inhabitants of the planet, living and deceased). The distinction between "step" and "leap" speaks for itself.
One may suggest that an article was presumably left out. I say "presumably" because Mr. Armstrong's words were transmitted from the Moon to the Earth in 1969 and the quality is less than perfect. Hear it for yourself:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Armstrong
(Note the caption)
Considering the circumstances, I am not at all bothered by the (presumed) lack of an article but I am truly impressed that someone, in this historic moment, could be thinking of the entirety of mankind and not of himself only.

I feel that your timing is very unfortunate. You have had 43 years to start a linguistic debate on the subject of a (presumably) missing article from a historic quote, but you come out with it at a time when the world is mourning and commemorating this extraordinary man. Just how much he did *not* screw up (your words) is obvious from his bio. One of the hundreds of sites paying respect to Mr. Armstrong:
http://neilarmstronginfo.com/neil-a-armstrong-1930-2012/

Since forum posts show up in Google searches and this discussion will soon be added to the millions of responses to this sad news, I can only hope that ProZ.com staff will edit the title. I recommend a more neutral phrasing, "Is there a grammatical problem with this quote?"...


 

finnword1
United States
Local time: 21:02
English to Finnish
+ ...
Another, less known phrase Aug 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong also reportedly said: "'Good luck, Mr. Gorsky". If you wonder why, Google it up.

 

Narcis Lozano Drago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:02
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
One small step for a man Aug 26, 2012

Some years ago I translated a book about the Apollo 11 mission
('Moonshot', by Dan Parry). I quote:

"Armstrong later said he intended to say ‘one small step for a man’
and believed he had done so. Yet, despite extended efforts by
some to prove the contrary, the ‘a’ appears to be missing from
the sound recording of Neil’s transmission. Nevertheless, for most
people his message was clear."

In Spanish this has always been translated as "un pequeño paso para un hombre", no ambiguities here.

Narcis


 

LEXpert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:02
Member (2008)
Croatian to English
+ ...
No - it's perfect Aug 26, 2012

He may have intended to add the "a", but, regardless, I think the version everyone ended up hearing is quite nice, without the disturbance of parallel construction that adding the article would have created.

"Man" can plausibly be taken refer to (himself as a representative of) the human species ("Man is a creature of habit"), rather himself as a specific individual ("There is *a* strange man standing on the corner"). This stands in contrast to "mankind", which is a bit wider concept than "man", IMO encompassing all of humanity, human society, achievement, etc.



[Edited at 2012-08-26 17:00 GMT]


 

Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:02
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Wiki Aug 26, 2012

Edward Potter wrote:
Did Neil Armstrong screw up?


Wikipedia sums it up nicely:


The broadcast did not have the "a" before "man", rendering the phrase a contradiction (as man in such use is synonymous with mankind). NASA and Armstrong insisted for years that static had obscured the "a", with Armstrong stating he would never make such a mistake, but after repeated listenings to recordings, Armstrong admitted he must have dropped the "a". Armstrong later said he "would hope that history would grant me leeway for dropping the syllable and understand that it was certainly intended, even if it was not said – although it might actually have been".

It has since been claimed that acoustic analysis of the recording reveals the presence of the missing "a"; Peter Shann Ford, an Australia-based computer programmer, conducted a digital audio analysis and claims that Armstrong did, in fact, say "a man", but the "a" was inaudible due to the limitations of communications technology of the time. Ford and James R. Hansen, Armstrong's authorized biographer, presented these findings to Armstrong and NASA representatives, who conducted their own analysis. The article by Ford, however, is published on Ford's own web site rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and linguists David Beaver and Mark Liberman wrote of their skepticism of Ford's claims on the blog Language Log. Although Armstrong found Ford's analysis "persuasive", he expressed his preference that written quotations include the "a" in parentheses.


So, officiallly, it is "one step for [a] man"...

The phrase was scripted, I remember reading somewhere that Neil Armstrong has prepared it weeks beforehand with the help of his wife.


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:02
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Rudolf Aug 26, 2012

In terms of the sentence per se, I don't quite understand what the big fuss is about imagining you need to insert the "a". Either way, it clearly conveys the intended difference between:

"man" = "man as biological entity"
"mankind" = "man as social entity"

But sure, if Armstrong's position was that (because either he fluffed the line or the transmission was bad) he meant to say "a" but it didn't come out clearly, I think it is a small step for us to honour his wish to quote the line with the "a" in parentheses.


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 03:02
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Agree with Ildiko Aug 26, 2012

I have changed the title of the thread - Edward, please change it further if you don't like the suggested version.

Please see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/famous-lost-word-in-neil-armstrongs-mankind-quote/article4499666/ for more info.

Natalia


 

finnword1
United States
Local time: 21:02
English to Finnish
+ ...
it's not broken, don't fix it Aug 26, 2012

Next time YOU step on the moon, feel free to say whatever you like ...

 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:02
Hebrew to English
Whoa, what's with the hostility? Aug 26, 2012

finnword1 wrote:

Next time YOU step on the moon, feel free to say whatever you like ...


@finnword1 & @Ildiko

I don't believe there's anything in the OP's post to disrespect Neil Armstrong at all. You should also remember that in order to discuss Neil Armstrong at all in these forums there has to be a linguistic or translation angle, otherwise it contravenes forum site rule 1.

"The ProZ.com forums are provided solely for discussions within ProZ.com's scope. Valid topics for discussion include language and language services (translation, interpreting, localization, subtitling, etc.), as well as business and technical issues of interest specifically to language professionals in their work. Postings which are not related to language or translation, or the business of language or translation, are not allowed. Postings which are political, religious, or otherwise controversial in nature, or that may be considered offensive by other users, will be removed without regard to the views expressed."
http://www.proz.com/siterules/forum/1#1

So whilst you may think the timing of this thread is unfortunate, it's actually necessary. (In order to discuss him at all).

I also think it's a valid question - whether* history will be more forgiving of his linguistic mishap now that he has passed away.

*(or to what extent)


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:02
Member (2008)
Italian to English
a . Aug 26, 2012

Jabberwock wrote:

The phrase was scripted. I remember reading somewhere that Neil Armstrong prepared it weeks beforehand with the help of his wife.


I heard Nixon told him to say it.


 

Jennifer Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:02
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Mrs Armstrong? Aug 27, 2012

I don't know whether Mrs Neil Armstrong is still alive. If so, it would be interesting if she could/would confirm that they devised those famous words together and whether or not the missing "a" was included. She'd probably say it was anyway, out of loyalty to her husband. My feeling is that they did devise the words together and then submitted them to Nixon (or some committee) for approval which was, of course, given.
If he did "muff" the "a" - well, just imagine how keyed up he must have been at that portentous moment and what a lot of other stuff he must have had on his mind ...


 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Lost word in Neil Armstrong's ‘mankind' quote?

Advanced search






BaccS – Business Accounting Software
Modern desktop project management for freelance translators

BaccS makes it easy for translators to manage their projects, schedule tasks, create invoices, and view highly customizable reports. User-friendly, ProZ.com integration, community-driven development – a few reasons BaccS is trusted by translators!

More info »
Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search