Anarthrous: Linguistics term meaning "occurring without an article" (a or the). From Greek words meaning "without joints." The second syllable is the same arth- found in arthritis and arthroscopy, and is the root of articulate.
I discovered anarthrous in a Language Log post by Mark Liberman, "Anarthrous Irony," about what Vice President Joe Biden did or didn't say to President Obama at last Tuesday's signing ceremony for the health-care law.* Did Biden say, as some accounts have it, "This is a big fucking deal"? Or did he omit the article and say, anarthrously, "Big fucking deal"?
The second utterance carries a distinctly different meaning from the first, says Liberman:
As the OED tells us, "a big deal" (with or without the taboo intensifier) is an American expression for "Something considered important; a cause for excitement or concern." But the phrase is also "Used as an ironical exclamation to express one's contempt for something regarded as impressive or important by another person."
However, the contemptuous sense seems to be associated specifically with the exclamatory fragment "big deal", where the determiner is omitted. That version can't be used predicatively: "This is big deal" might be the boast of a Russian who never mastered the English determiner system, but it's not something that a native speaker would say "to express contempt for something regarded as impressive by another person". . . .
Thus vice-president Biden said "((that's)) a big fucking deal", and, I imagine, meant it sincerely. But if he'd said just "big fucking deal" it would have been a deflating attempt to subvert the moment.
Commenter Dan Bloom notes that the Wall Street Journal ran a photo of the signing with the anarthrous caption "Big Deal."
* The Language Log post is not about the propriety of the F-word. Neither is my own post. (For the record, I do think HCR is a BFD.) However, McKay Hatch, a California teenager who is president of the No Cussing Club, got himself on the national news for sending Biden a T-shirt and a "cuss jar" into which the vice president can make a monetary deposit for every taboo word he says.