In my experience, it is rarely said like that - it is either as heypresto says orI'm wondering why the indefinite article "a" is not in the standard version of the proverb:
A jack of all trades is [a] master of none.
Why does the indefinite article disappear anyway, in your particular example?In my experience, it is rarely said like that - it is either as heypresto says or
:1878 S. Walpole History of England. I. 311 It would be unfair to say of Lord Brougham that he was ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’.
There is no "standard version", the following are all possible.I'm wondering why the indefinite article "a" is not in the standard version of the proverb
Would you say "John is jack-of-all-trades" without the indefinite article?The traditional saying is not a proverb, or a complete sentence. I have never heard it as a sentence.
Instead, it is a description of a person. It is a noun phrase: "jack of all trades, master of none".
Note there is a modern English noun "jack-of-all-trades". See "jack of all trades" in the WR dictionary: jack of all trades - WordReference.com Dictionary of English
On its own 'John is master of none' doesn't mean anything.Good, just as I expected. What about "John is master of none"?
Is the indefinite article optional in "John is a master of no trade"?"John is a master of no trade." Traditionally, when learning a trade, you were an apprentice, then a journeyman, and finally a master. So to be a master of a trade required several years of training.
The expression is old enough (hundreds of years, I would guess) to be using this meaning of "master". It also uses "jack", an obsolete term. According to etymonline.com:
Jack: Used in male personifications from 15c.; first record of jack-of-all-trades "person handy at any kind of work or business" is from 1610s