[Ads-l] Heard, again: "dekkid"; also "on _the_ average"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Dec 25 21:24:36 UTC 2016

On 12/25/2016 4:31 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> ...
> "We have a homicide here in [Reynoldsburg, in] central Ohio only about once
> every five years, on _the_ average."

Does "on the average" seem strange? Apparently it does to some [young?] 
folks judging from some remarks on the Web.

To me, offhand, "on the average" seems normal and usual, with synonymous 
"on an average" and "on average" also OK. I think I would always use "on 
the average" myself.

Digital MW3 shows both "on the average" and "on an average".

Ngram Viewer (using, e.g., <<on average the,on the average the,on an 
average the>>, with "English" corpus) seems to suggest that "on average" 
hardly occurred at all before ca. 1940, but later became more frequent, 
passing the previously dominant "on the average" in the 1980's or so, 
while "on an average" has declined since ca. 1900. By 2000 "on average" 
apparently predominated, leading "on the average" by factor 5 or so. 
Results appear qualitatively similar for "American English" and "British 
English" corpora.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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