He was unkempt, clever in an understated way, and extremely polite. I’d noticed quite a few of his sort around. They all seemed to have descended from a single family and to have come from private schools in the North of England where they were issued with the same clothes.What stopped me was "issued with the same clothes." For me, or at least for the editor in me, that with is, if not outright wrong, at least inelegant and unnecessary -- like saying someone was elected as president. But for McEwan, his educated narrator, and his New Yorker editor, "issued with" was apparently just fine.
I soon found out why: This is a British-American difference, with the Brits on the tolerant side of the scale. The usage appeared in the early 20th century, says Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. "Its common occurrence has led to its acceptance by British commentators (such as Partridge 1942 and Gowers in Fowler 1965). Speakers of American English would say 'provided with' or 'supplied with' instead." (Or maybe just "issued the same clothes," as I would.)
If I ever learned this nit formally, it was probably from Bergen and Cornelia Evans, whose Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage (1957) was one of my early references. The Evanses are (uncharacteristically) dogmatic on this point, saying that "the use of with following this use of issue (as in The new arrivals were issued with regulation uniforms) is redundant and erroneous."
But British usage watchers had already concluded that resistance was vain. The OED has a 1953 quote from the BBC publication The Listener objecting to "the idiom 'issued with': 'He was issued with' a rifle, and a packet of cigarettes, or what not. I suppose this horror has come to stay.'"
And Ernest Gowers sounded resigned in his 1965 edition of Fowler:
The modern construction, which speaks of issuing [someone] with the article, on the analogy of supply or provide ... has been deservedly criticized for its absurdity. But it has been much popularized by two wars, is recognized without comment by the OED Supp., and has evidently come to stay, whether we like it or not.Later usage books treat the choice as a matter of national preference: Roy Copperud (1970) and the Columbia Guide (1993) simply note that the Brits like "issued with" while Americans prefer just "issued" or "supplied with."
By the time Bryan Garner published the first version of his big American usage guide, in 1998, the verb issue was no longer an issue. (The noun issue, as in "we have issues," had begun its still flourishing career as a popular peeve -- but that's a different story.)