Armstrong’s Ohio Accent May Have Masked His Missing “A”

“That’s one small step for man… one giant leap for mankind.” And with those famous words astronaut Neil A. Armstrong awed the entire world on July 21, 1969, becoming the first human to set a booted foot upon a world other than our own. But the historic statement itself has caused no small bit of confusion and controversy over the years, from whether Armstrong came up with it on the spot (he didn’t) to what he actually said… small step for “man?” Where’s the “a?”

Although some have said that the article was left out or cut off (and admittedly it sure sounds that way to me) it turns out it’s probably been there the whole time, hidden behind Neil’s native Ohio accent.

According to a team of speech scientists and psychologists from Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing and The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, it is entirely possible that Armstrong said what he had always claimed — though evidence indicates that most people are likely to hear “for man” instead of “for a man” on the Apollo 11 broadcast recordings.

By studying how speakers from Armstrong’s native central Ohio pronounce “for” and “for a,” the team’s results suggest that his “a” was acoustically blended into his “for.”

“Prior acoustic analyses of Neil Armstrong’s recording have established well that if the word ‘a’ was spoken, it was very short and was fully blended acoustically with the preceding word,” says Laura Dilley of Michigan State University. “If Armstrong actually did say ‘a,'” she continues, “it sounded something like ‘frrr(uh).'”

His blending of the two words, compounded with the poor sound quality of the television transmission, has made it difficult to corroborate his claim that the “a” is there.

“If Armstrong actually did say ‘a,’ it sounded something like ‘frrr(uh).'”

– Laura Dilley, Michigan State University

Dilley and her colleagues used a collection of recordings of conversational speech from 40 people raised in Columbus, Ohio, near Armstrong’s native town of Wapakoneta. Within this body of recordings, they found 191 cases of “for a.” They matched each of these to an instance of “for” as said by the same speaker and compared the relative duration. They also examined the duration of Armstrong’s “for (a”) from the lunar transmission.

The researchers found a large overlap between the relative duration of the “r” sound in “for” and “for a” using the Ohio speech data. The duration of the “frrr(uh)” in Armstrong’s recording was 0.127 seconds, which falls into the middle of this overlap. In other words, the researchers conclude, the lunar landing quote is highly compatible with either possible interpretation though it is probably slightly more likely to be perceived as “for” regardless of what Armstrong actually said.

Read more: Neil Armstrong Didn’t Lie About First Words on the Moon

Dilley says there may have been a “perfect storm of conditions” for the word “a” to have been spoken… but not heard.

“We’ve bolstered Neil Armstrong’s side of the story,” she says. “We feel we’ve partially vindicated him. But we’ll most likely never know for sure exactly what he said based on the acoustic information.”

(Personally, I feel that if the first man to walk on the Moon said he said “a,” then he said “a.”)

The team will present its work at the 21st International Congress on Acoustics June 2–7 in Montreal.

Source: EurekAlert

25 Replies to “Armstrong’s Ohio Accent May Have Masked His Missing “A””

  1. I listened to the audio and Armstrong does say a man, but the soft/smooth a and man are linked. No idea why they try to listen to foruh, since its “for hman”

  2. God, let this point die. I don’t care of he said “a” or not. He was on the Moon!

    1. The beauty of science is that it tries to approach reality. Its like asking what Mohammed’s daughter was dressed like, while its emotionaly a moot point.

  3. Will we ever stop beating this dead horse? Let’s take one small step for all the men and women who are bored to tears with this subject. It’s been 44 years! Enough already!

  4. This proves no matter the intelligence of a person. Or weather their IQ score is low or high. Or the doctorate and collage degree’s. Human beings are just that, ~ human beings ~.

    Egos cause more stupidity and nit-picking than any other emotion known to man kind. It causes discernment with mistrust that spurn other misguided emotions. No matter their bank account amount. People are driven by their over zealous egotistical ways.

    Who gives a rats ass what Armstrong said or did not say. We all know what the man meant. After 45 years, shut the f%#k up! A person can use humor to joke about things of science. This this article was as useless as “teats on a bull”!

    1. By now we could have tried out the Helium 3 idea 3 times…tried, failed,,,tried again…failed, tried again….Win…the middle east would become the gravel pit god always intended it to be. But ego says “never repeat a success” so here we sit

      1. lol…well said. Guess we will sit for a bit more time Coacervate. Like I said in this post. “Egos spurn off other misguided emotions”. Again, well said by you 😉

      2. What is “the Helium 3 idea”? We are still a long way from the containment product that burns deuterium-tritium, and it is unclear if we can reach the necessary 2 order of magnitude larger for helium-3 fusion. And if we do, it is an inefficient process, so again it is unclear if the presumed “cleaner” burn translates to less radiation problems – or more.

    2. You are most certainly on to something, albeit no so eloquently said. Unfortunately it is these people with the huge egos (who only care about their image and those who shine it up for them) who happen to run the world with their yes men and women followers.

      1. 🙂 Hiya Greg. Glad you noticed my uneloquent post…lol. I showed my anger side didn’t I. I was angered by the article. Why? Brought back frustrating memories of two good scientist friends who did not kiss up to the ‘power brokers’ as you put it. The other three ‘yes men’ as you put it’, still have their jobs. Quoting you is so easy ;-). The circumstances were basically the same as Mr. Armstrongs. They just couldn’t let it go. Ego and greed were the #1 culprits.

        GregtheThird….who were Gregthe Second and Gregthe First? Let me guess. Your grandfather and father? 😉

      2. Gregory is not a name that is often passed on through successive generations. My grandfather would not have done that to my father. I was one of the original people who posted on this website under the name Greg, and I had to change it when the website was redone and required the use of Disqus. I happen to have two older brothers, so the name made sense to me. Your style reminds me of my father who is a very bright individual. but never refined his intellect via higher education.

        Like in any organizations those with the biggest egos tend to take it over in time and try to turn it into an exclusive club of people like themselves. Pressure is inevitably applied to people who are different until they leave. There is certainly an element of that here.

        Science is essentially about eliminating biases in order to get to the truth. It is ironic then that many in science fail to apply that axiom to their personal interactions with others, especially those not within the field. With regards to some of your posts below, I would say you also need to work on eliminating biases, prejudices from your posts.

      3. Yes the element is here. And its very large. For except you last sentence. Your spot on. I am the oldest and boldest in my family. My education was interrupted by my youths arrogance. You know. Sex, drugs, rock & roll of the 1960’s-’70’s. I had fun. But science of the ‘space kind’ always fascinated me to no end. Who or what made all that?! How? I have enough trouble scrambling eggs! And I look up and see all that up there? Then this earth the perfect planet with life abound? It is more than incredible. Speechless.
        As for your last sentence. You couldn’t see “tit for tat”? Strange. Every other post I posted in here was always fun and polite. I never had to shoot back or have my ego be anything but neutral. We all see things differently. That is science too of the mind kind. Its all good Greg. You take care of yourself. And remember….always fire back if warranted.

  5. I find it hard to believe that researchers from Michigan State helped out the Buckeyes on this one!

  6. lmao! Humor is a lot of fun and tactfully said and done here in “Universe Today”. That remark was all pure Football related! What games those two schools perform yearly.

  7. I just want to thank all you scientists, experts and alike or not. For answering my questions in the space science field. I am “not” a scientist in the sense of the word. A shade over a novice is a perfect descriptive word for me.

    Over 3 decades I have helped at various planetarium centers and collage libraries. Some work I did was ‘pro’bono’ just to gain knowledge of space helped me immensely! An even trade off. Our fantastic universe and how and what makes it tick is the ultimate last frontier of discoveries for our human race.

    Whatever side you prefer to believe. The Creationists or Evolutionists. Lets all just get along and figure out who is the winner of those two proposals. All will be revealed at some day and time in the future.. Thank you all again :-).

    1. Creationists shouldn’t comment on science, it is hilarious and makes deconverts from religion, see Dawkins’s Convert’s Corner.

      There isn’t any “two proposals” here and we don’t need to wait for the future, which 30 s of googling would have told you: over a century ago the fact of the basics of biology was firmly established along with the theory that characterizes the well observed process. “Biology has many subdisciplines unified by … 3 New species and inherited traits are the product of evolution”. [ ] Hilarious, as I noted.

      More seriously, this is a science blog. Take your magic ideas somewhere else.

      1. Funny Mr. Larsson how you say there was-is no creation or Creator and yet your talking and acting just like one! …lol. Your EGO stands out. You say I shouldn’t be here making comments? Who do you thing you are? Oh ya, I forgot. Mr. Larsson is the Creator! Ok then Mr Larsson, just the people of the United Staes of America should only post in here! We’ll Mr Larsson. Respond to that! CLUE!? You are telling people who and what they must talk about. Mr Larsson? Your NOT the judge & jury. Heavens no! Not with me!

        I do respect your knowledge, but not your ego. Your Thor like attitude is awful. Your from the Netherlands area. Viking country! Cool history! But guess what Mr Larsson? The Vikings got their asses handed to them many years ago! And by whom Mr Larsson? WHOM!? The Christians mostly!….Now that is laughable.

        I am a Creationists and your a naturists. Let it be! If you truly believe there are not two sides to this creationists & naturists thing. Then ok, that is on you. All I was doing was thanking the scientists and anyone who answered my questions. Get off your high horse Mr Larsson before I send Christians after your soryy ass…

        Another thing I said was, “whatever side one chooses lets just get along”. Apparently Mr Larsson you do not want to get along. Please do not tell people who and where they can or cannot post. Give it a rest Larsson!

      2. Oh no, you’re back again. Please go away for good. Nobody here wants to hear about your jibberish religion.

      3. Here again? Go away? Religion? Here in the Cape Cod region we do not talk that way. Is this a KKK site?.

      4. My post was not about creation vs naturalists. If you can read correctly. I thanked the people who answered my questions over the few weeks I have been here. Then I explained why, how, and what I did to learn about space science. Lastly, all I did was state the proposal that has been in question for years about Creationists vs Naturalists to just get along. Get your head out of your ass over this subject. You must of been cracked over your head with a crucifix when you were a child?….lol. .Stop suggesting and telling me or anyone for that matter, what they can or cannot express in here! No kidding it is a science blog. Really? ……gee I didn’t know that.

        Read my other post below this one. It just may enlighten your sorry bossy ass about EGOS!

      5. No offense, but modern science, what has its western roots in the 17th and 18th century. Started because of religion, nature, the 2nd bible. That thing. Many religious people have important roots in our science. The Big Bang (can be interperted for both sides), even Einstein worked together with religious scientists. Just cause of theories or new proven facts, does not make either side wrong or right. With our current knowledge it can still go either way. Its just peoples interpertation.

  8. I don’t even know what to say. This article is just… a waste of time.Regardless of evidence ‘for’ or ‘against’ him misquoting, this issue needs to die. The guy walked on the moon. That’s all that matters.

  9. One small step for man to me means > for mankind. Much better than one small step for a man; meaning me me me.

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