“A” One Hundred?

The formulation 100 means “one hundred” in the same way 20 means “twenty”. 100 does not stand in for “hundred”.

So why do some people write “a 100” when they mean “a hundred”?

Would they write “a twenty”? (Granted they could say “a score” instead – but, in the same way that a dozen when written as a numeral is read as “twelve”, “a score” can’t be written as a numeral. If it is, it is read as “twenty”. I can not remember ever seeing “a 12” when “a dozen” was meant.)

So why do we get this nonsense with “a 100”?

Still less should “100s” be used to represent “hundreds”. The word “hundreds” ought always to be written out. If it means anything “100s” means “one hundreds” not “hundreds”. There may be a subtle difference between the two usages but usually hundreds is sufficient to the purpose.

This folly reached a new depth for me when I recently read the phrase “a 120 miles an hour”. That would be “120 miles an hour” then, (a hundred and twenty miles an hour); not “a” one hundred and twenty miles an hour. There can’t be more than one such velocity after all.

I suspect this foolery has come in as people have drifted into the habit of writing the numeral instead of spelling out the number fully when writing prose. I was always taught that it was bad practice to write the numeral in such a circumstance.

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4 comments

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  1. Peggy Ann

    Laziness, Jack. We’ve become a very lazy people.

  2. jackdeighton

    Peggy,
    Yes. Indeed.
    It is much quicker and easier to type 100 than one hundred.

  3. Martin McCallion

    I’ve noticed that as well, with a similar sense of annoyance. But worse, perhaps, are the adverts for a programme that’s on one of the Channel 4 properties. The title is presented as The 100. Obviously we read that as “The One Hundred.” But the announcers insist on calling it “The Hundred.”

  4. jackdeighton

    Martin,
    The 100? I’ve missed that one. Just as well probably, given the announcers.

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