The pro-life movement is inevitably bound to some kind of conservatism, insofar as a anti-abortion ethic is hard to separate from a conservative ethic around sex, monogamy and marriage. [The bolding is mine. —JMN](Ross Douthat, “The End of Roe Is Just the Beginning,” NYTimes, 6-25-22)
The NYTimes sets a high editorial bar for style, and scrupulous rhetorician Ross Douthat is always a good model for tight writing. Hence my slight intake of breath when I met the phrase “a anti-abortion ethic” instead of “an anti-abortion ethic.” I surmised that the adjacency of the indefinite article to a word starting with “an” might have triggered the slip. These things happen even in journals we depend on to keep the language sharp.
It crossed my mind that perhaps there’s an exception rule I’m unaware of that now endorses the “a an-“ combination (“a antique,” “a anagram,” “a anarchist,”…) responding to a repugnance for the collision of “an an-.” If so, phrases such as “a antithesis” would still sound discordant to my conservative ear.
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