"the" (2)

David B. Kronenfeld david.kronenfeld at ucr.edu
Mon Aug 30 20:14:02 UTC 2004

Mostly I agree with you.  But we do hear or see occasional usage of 
expressions like "the Donald" or "the Arnold".  When used they seem to be a 
way of being a little cute--and of implying that the person in question has 
become something of either a caricature or a trademark.  And, for my 
examples, "the Arnold" kind of trails after "the terminator"--but as a way 
of cutting him down a little, while "the Donald" sort of cuts our supreme 
trumpeter down a bit while also making clear that we are talking about a 
business trademark (not just any old "Donald", but "the Donald").  Language 
remains a moving target and we continue to do funny things with it.

At 12:22 PM 8/30/2004, Johanna Rubba wrote:

>I don't see "the 405" as placement of an article before a proper name. I 
>do believe it is a short form of "the 405 freeway." If you've listened to 
>enough LA radio traffic reports, you hear alternation between the shorter 
>and longer usage. And perhaps people more expert on SoCal usage can chime 
>in as to whether So. Californians use "the" in front of other proper 
>names. I don't have any awareness of such. I do not hear the usages Steve 
>Long reports, e.g. "the Santa Claus" or "the Popeye".
>As to "the Christ", I'm sure Gibson was using it in the traditional 
>theological sense, this being a very fundamentalist Catholic movie. But 
>somehow I doubt that this film is responsible for the spread of such 
>usages. It's too recent. "The Donald" has been in common use since long 
>before Gibson's film appeared. My intuition tells me that "the" is 
>inserted in such cases as a campy acknowledgment of his (supposed?) 
>uniqueness and fame, as we say "the sun" and "the moon", because we can be 
>sure everyone knows which sun or moon (or Donald) we are talking about.
>Re British "the Burger King", this has a familiar ring to me. But my 
>memories of British English are too foggy to verify or come up with other 
>examples. Surely there are some Brits out there who subscribe to Funknet ... ?
>Johanna Rubba   Associate Professor, Linguistics
>English Department, California Polytechnic State University
>One Grand Avenue  • San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
>Tel. (805)-756-2184  •  Fax: (805)-756-6374 • Dept. Phone.  756-2596
>• E-mail: jrubba at calpoly.edu •  Home page: http://www.cla.calpoly.edu/~jrubba

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