Re: "The" before names

Subject: Re: "The" before names
From: Michael Lewis <lewism -at- BRANDLE -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Sun, 5 Apr 1998 19:55:07 +1000

In principle, the rule is that you would speak of "the <abbreviation>"
if you would also speak of "the <full name>", but not otherwise. You
speak of "the Federal Bureau of Investigation", so it's "the FBI".
Similarly for the CIA. But you wouldn't speak of "the International
Business Machines", so you wouldn't speak of "the IBM" (at least, not
when referring to the corporation). The point I was making in my earlier
posting is precisely that surface phenomena may appear inconsistent
while there are entirely consistent things going on at a deeper level.
Only by incorrectly assuming some sort of parallel between "FBI", "CIA",
and "IBM" wouyld anyone use the expression "The IBM".

Digging a little deeper, you can see that the FBI is a special B(ureau),
and the CIA is a special A(gency), but IBM isn't any kind of I, B, or M.
Which Bureau? The FBI. Which Agency? The CIA. But there's no "Which"
question to elicit the response "The IBM". (There is "Which
corporation?" to elicit either of the responses "IBM" or "the IBM Corp")

This is exactly analogous to the situation with the ABC-20 widget (a
modem, if I recall correctly). Which modem? "The ABC-20 modem", or even
"The ABC-20", but _not_ just "ABC-20". For some reason, we treat program
names differently: Which word processing software? Word. Which DTP
software? FrameMaker. These are like people: Which President? Clinton.
Which physicist? Einstein. and so on. Why software should be
anthropomorphised like that, I've no idea; but it does happen to
software, whereas it does not happen to widgets.

Conclusion: By all means write about Word or FrameMaker, but please
don't write about ABC-20 when you mean "the ABC-20"!

mhunterk -at- BNA -dot- COM wrote:
> Michael Lewis <lewism -at- BRANDLE -dot- COM -dot- AU> wrote:
> > 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"!)
> Here in the U.S., we do refer to "the FBI" and "the CIA" but not, of
> course, to "the IBM." I don't know what the rule is.
> ...

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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