Re: "The" before names

Subject: Re: "The" before names
From: Michael Lewis <lewism -at- BRANDLE -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 21:35:48 +1000

First, the jargon: "possessive" (genitive) case doesn't apply only to
simple nouns (common or proper) but also to noun phrases. A noun phrase
may include a determiner (of which articles, a/an and the, are just one
set). The determiner is part of the noun phrase, regardless of whether
the noun phrase itself is in nominative, accusative, genitive, or dative

So whether you refer to "ABC's modem" or "the ABC's modem" depends on
whether you would refer to "ABC" or "the ABC". Amusingly but relevantly,
many years ago when I was a corporate wage slave, I heard someone refer
to my then employer as "the IBM" (a bit like "the FBI" or "the CIA"!)
There's no getting away from the fact that "the" is optional (in most
contexts) in the expression "[the] IBM Corporation"; it's possible that
IBM is being used as an adjective (Which corp? The IBM one). However, on
its own, "IBM" means "International Business Machines" and refers to an
organisation; "the IBM" means "the ... Machine(s)", and refers to one or
more boxes. Indeed, many large companies used to have "an IBM" (which,
because they had only one, they would refer to as "the IBM") in a large
air-conditioned room somewhere. Similarly, I could (if I were so lucky)
refer to "the Porsche in my garage"; it ain't the same thing as Porsche
the company (or the Porsche company).

Taking the Porsche example a step further, which of us would speak of
"911's handling characteristics" rather than "the 911's handling
characteristics", or "jumbo's passenger capacity" rather than "the
jumbo's passenger capacity"? I can't (yet) give a full linguistic
analysis, but I'm sure it has to do with anthropomorphism: a company is
essentially human, but a car or a plane isn't. Nor is a modem, whther
it's given a name like "ABC-20" or one like "Fred".

stephen lubell wrote:
> >From: "Geoff Hart" <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
> >To: steven -at- RADMAIL -dot- RAD -dot- CO -dot- IL
> >Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 08:18:13 +0000
> >Subject: "The" before names
> >Reply-to: geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
> >Priority: normal
> >
> >Greets!
> >
> >Please forward this to techwr-l (minus the intro) for additional
> >feedback and commentary if you find it helpful; I can't post directly
> >to the list. Thanks!
> >
> >--Geoff
> >
> >***********
> >Steven Lubell wondered about when to use "the" before product names
> >or acronyms. A good first cut at this is to understand what the
> >predominant usage happens to be; for example, the Ontario Ministry of
> >Natural Resources was always called OMNR, and I don't recall ever
> >having heard "the OMNR". So that's the way we did it: no "the".
> >
> >For a more specific rule that works really well, let's look at your
> >example: [the?] ABC modem. In general, where you have the name being
> >used as an adjective, use "the"; this is because you would say "the
> >modem is on", not "modem is on". If you're referring to ABC itself,
> >and not specifying what it is, then you're effectively treating the
> >acronym as if it were a person (an entity, if you prefer), and no
> >"the" is necessary. This is particularly true if you've made it a
> >possessive form (e.g., "ABC's modem", not "the ABC's modem"). A
> >grammarian could give you the jargon to pin this down exactly, but
> >examples are probably more useful to show us non-grammarians the
> >pattern. A few more examples:
> >
> >the Word macro language vs. Word's macro language vs. Word is a
> >wordprocessor
> >
> >IBM's HQ is in Armonk (is it?) vs. IBM announced record profits
> >yesterday vs. the IBM strategy is to move from selling big iron to
> >selling services.
> >
> >the NASA program is under severe budgetary pressure vs. NASA is under
> >severe budgetary pressure vs. NASA's program is...
> >--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
> >geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
> >
> Stephen Lubell
> Technical Documentation Department
> RAD Data Communications Ltd
> 12 HaNechoshet Street
> Tel Aviv 69710
> Tel: ++972+3+6455306
> Fax: ++972+3+6483331

Michael Lewis
Brandle Pty Limited, Sydney, Australia
PO Box 1249, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012
Suite 8, The Watertower, 1 Marian St, Redfern 2016
Tel +61-2-9310-2224 ... Fax +61-2-9310-5056

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