Indefinite article with a modified proper name: <a> seventeen-year-old James Teit

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  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hi, Hexane. I take the sentence to mean the same as ",...they were joined by James Teit, who was seventeen years old at the time".
     
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    "In Liverpool, they were joined by a seventeen-year-old James Teit, [...]"
    Is this usage incorrect or confusing?
    Almost certainly there should be a comma after old.
    In Liverpool, they were joined by a seventeen-year-old, James Teit, ...
    Otherwise it is perfectly OK.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Almost certainly there should be a comma after old.
    In Liverpool, they were joined by a seventeen-year-old, James Teit, ...
    Otherwise it is perfectly OK.
    Surely you can only have a comma it you are introducing someone unknown.
    Otherwise, by your logic you would have to write "They were joined by a young, Winston Churchill."
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hexane, what 'usage' exactly is troubling you?
    It might be 'perfectly OK', or it might not be. No source, no context and it isn't even a full sentence. Does it mean A) 'joined by a seventeeen-year-old,' who happened to be called James Teit, or B) does it mean ' joined by James Teit, who happened to be seventeen at that time'?
    Either version is possible.
    :)
    Hermione
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
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    DBlomgren

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    "In Liverpool, they were joined by a seventeen-year-old James Teit, [...]"
    Is this usage incorrect or confusing?
    Hexane, I think I see what you mean. It would sound more normal to say "...by seventeen-year-old James..." However, the writer/speaker could mean "a 17-year-old James Teit" as opposed to a 19-year-old one, implying that normally people know/knew James Teit at a different age. Do you think the writer/speaker could have been making that distinction?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Surely you can only have a comma it you are introducing someone unknown.
    Otherwise, by your logic you would have to write "They were joined by a young, Winston Churchill."
    Ah, but "young" cannot be understood as a noun; "seventeen-year-old" can. There is nothing at all wrong with "They were joined by a seventeen-year-old, Winston Churchill."

    In Liverpool, they were joined by a seventeen-year-old James Teit, ...

    Having read the comments it is clear that the sentence is indeed somewhat ambiguous.
    The ambiguity lies in the term "seventeen-year-old".
    Is it an adjective modifying James Teit or is it a noun followed by an appositive James Teit?
    ... they were joined by James Teit (aged 17 at the time).
    OR
    ... they were joined by a seventeen-year-old (whose name was James Teit).

    My earlier post is based on reading the sentence with the second meaning, hence my point about the comma. Unless James Teit is someone really famous who has escaped my attention, or is perhaps a character that the readers of the text are already familiar with, I think that is the most likely meaning.

    HERE is another example:
    The Smiths were joined for their honeymoon trip to the New World by a 17-year-old from the Shetland Isles named James Teit.
     
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