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.

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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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