"the" (2)

Salinas17 at aol.com Salinas17 at aol.com
Mon Aug 30 15:16:03 UTC 2004

In a message dated 8/29/04 4:50:52 PM, jrubba at calpoly.edu writes:
<< Southern Californians are known for their use of "the" in front of

freeway numbers: the 5, the 405, the 101, etc. I think this is mostly a

Southern Cal. usage; heard less often in the northern half of the state. >>

The use of "the" before proper names is something I heard in the midwest
years ago and it showed up in for example Al Franken's impression of the Minnesota
rabbi giving his ecumenical approval to songs about "the Santa Claus".
David Letterman often drifted into it when he was getting colloquial ("How many of
you have tried the Popeye's string beans, huh?").  I always took it as being
somehow from the German usage.

The usage makes an unusual appearance in a current Burger King commercial
where a motivational-type spokesperson with a British accent says "the Burger
King" in referring to the chain -- probably the first time that has happened in a
national fast food commercial.  I heard it also in the sports nicknaming
youth jargon of the 80's ("the Stevester").

It strikes me that it made a startling appearance in the title of Mel
Gibson's movie -- "The Passion of the Christ."  In all of these cases, what its
function appears to be is to take a proper name and elevate it to a categorical

Steve Long

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