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Харбин Хэйлунцзян 1
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 5:19:37 PM

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This can be seen on ca.yahoo.com right now:



Why is it not 'a lottery'?

Something strange is happening. Before 1980 both were used. Now it's only 'the lottery':

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აბა ყვავებს ვინ დაიჭერს, კარგო? გალიაში ბულბულები ზიან.
NKM
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 6:51:26 PM

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The singular form with the indefinite article is still in use, at least here in the U.S. There are many lotteries; nowadays; it seems that each state has a lottery of its own, or often several different ones.

We may speak of "winning the lottery", but when someone actually does win we say usually that they've won "Lotto" or "Powerball" or "The MegaMillions" or whichever other particular lottery they've been lucky enough to win.

Wilmar (USA)
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 7:20:30 PM

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All true, NKM, but when someone does speak of winning, it is usually/always described as being the-one-and-only lottery -- they wont the lottery that they played.

I won the lottery!
not, I won a lottery!
NKM
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 7:35:47 PM

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OK, but hereabouts it would more likely be "I won the Powerball!" or "I won the Lotto!"

Sarrriesfan
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 9:30:50 PM

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Here in the UK the official title of the state lottery is The National Lottery, it's often called just "the lottery" for short.

The name that you use for winning is a very regional thing.

I lack the imagination for a witty signature.
Andrew Schultz
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 9:34:21 PM

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There might be a few reasons. First, lotteries weren't legalized widely until the 1970s. Thus, they couldn't be advertised, but when they could, "the lottery" felt more personal, or felt like it gave bigger payouts, than "a lottery." So advertisers went with that. Contrast "The Place to Be" with "a place to be" and you have another example.

Also I imagine "you won the lottery" gained acceptance as an idiom, e.g. you got really lucky. So people would not be referencing a literal lottery.

I particularly enjoy the idiom section of this fine website.
Харбин Хэйлунцзян 1
Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017 11:46:15 PM

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Joined: 10/13/2015
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Location: Dzerzhinskiy, Moskovskaya, Russia
Thanks to you all!



აბა ყვავებს ვინ დაიჭერს, კარგო? გალიაში ბულბულები ზიან.
thar
Posted: Saturday, August 12, 2017 3:34:01 AM

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I agree with those - 'the lottery' is the prize.

But also, 'a lottery' is often used in a negative way. It means random chance, not what is fair or deserved.

Eg
Life is a lottery ( your number might come up at any time, and you drop dead)
Cancer treatment is a lottery (some poeple get good care, some people don't)
"Is access to surgery a postcode lottery?" - it depends on where you live.


It just has negative connotations.

Something positive tends to be 'the' you have 'hit the jackpot'.

Харбин Хэйлунцзян 1
Posted: Saturday, August 12, 2017 4:38:37 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 10/13/2015
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Location: Dzerzhinskiy, Moskovskaya, Russia
thar wrote:
It just has negative connotations.

Something positive tends to be 'the' you have 'hit the jackpot'.

That's an interesting perspective. Thank you!



აბა ყვავებს ვინ დაიჭერს, კარგო? გალიაში ბულბულები ზიან.
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