A hard-working little word that’s putting on airs and graces

JUST when did the (grammatically known as the ‘definite article’) start getting above its station?

The circumstances when a capital T should be bestowed on this little workhorse of the English language are few:

•    When it appears at the beginning of a sentence.
•    When it is part of a title of a play, book, film, song, show etc.

So why do you now see the definite article with a capital T used mid-sentence willy nilly?

With pub names: We met at The Dog and Duck for a pint.

With organisations: Members of The National Trust have had their say on planning reforms.

With official reports: The circumstances were examined in The Hutton Report.

With institutions: Policies at The Bank of England are currently subject to review.

And even with individuals (albeit important ones): It was a fitting tribute to The Queen.

More and more businesses also appear to be annexing the definite article, making it part of their name and (rather grandly) insisting that it bears a capital letter.

The definite article is used exclusively to indicate specificity and uniqueness, one of a kind.

As a warm-up act for the noun it precedes it does its job perfectly well. But it does not deserve to share star billing.


About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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