LINGUIST List 3.918

Sat 21 Nov 1992

Disc: Articles and Names

Editor for this issue: <>


  • , Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
  • , articles in place names
  • Ron Smyth, Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
  • Jeff Runner, "The" City
  • John E. Koontz, Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
  • Lynda M. Milne, Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
  • , Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
  • Paul Saka, RE 3.914 Placenames
  • Ian MacKay, Articles with highway numbers

    Message 1: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1992 09:40 ESTRe: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
    Subject: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    In the original posting-- and John Dingley's most recent one-- I was struck by the number of "colonial names" with articles in English that come from French. Could that be the historical reason in English, anyway? (Since countries are normally referred to with the article when subjects in French.)

    Leslie Morgan

    Message 2: articles in place names

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 92 14:33
    From: <>
    Subject: articles in place names

    I agree with the contributors who feel that the definite article has colonial overtones. To shift the debate to another continent, consider India: "The Punjab" immediately suggests the days of the Raj, and every Punjabi I know (i.e. not just Khalistani secessionists!) says "I come from Punjab". But then, Punjabi doesn't have articles either, definite or indefinite ...

    Sue Blackwell School of English University of Birmingham, U.K.

    Message 3: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 92 10:11:43 ESRe: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
    From: Ron Smyth <>
    Subject: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    In 1970 the twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur Ontario were almalgamated into Thunder Bay. The cities were known collectively as "The Lakehead", and although the motivation for this name was never clear to me, it seems to mean that they are located at the 'head' (top?) of the Great Lakes. At any rate, it was convenient to have a collective name for the two cities, so that one could say "I'm going to the Lakehead" instead of "I'm going to the Fort William - Port Arthur region". The amalgamation was an unpopular move on the part of the Ministry of Urban Affairs of the time because the two cities had separate histories going back to the fur trading days. The city centres are several miles apart and there was much rivalry between them.

    When amalgamation became a fact, a plebiscite was held to decide on the new name. We were given three choices: The Lakehead, Lakehead, and Thunder Bay. Now Thunder Bay is the bay on Lake Superior on which both cities are located, but it sounded much to rural for most residents. The obvious choice was The Lakehead, since this is what everyone had always called the cities anyway. However, the vote was split by arguments on talk shows and in the local press concerning the status of names with the definite article. I recall even the day before the vote that people would call the radio stations to make desperate pleas: Don't vote for 'The Lakehead'!! It sounds like an area, not like a city name!! vs. Don't let this government change our traditional name from Lakehead to The Lakehead.

    The result? Thunder Bay, with a minority of votes, won out, much to EVERYone's dismay.

    BTW, I found it irksome that when the two newpapers joined forces, their separate names, The News-Chronicle and the Times-Journal, were also amalgamated, yielding two different names, one for the morning and one for the evening edition: The Times-News and the Chronicle-Journal. It seems that nobody had a sense for the compound meanings and viewed the new names as a meaningless combination of newpapery names, just as they must have viewed the old ones. Ron Smyth

    Message 4: "The" City

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 92 10:22:53 -0"The" City
    From: Jeff Runner <>
    Subject: "The" City

    In response to Michael Erickson's posting commenting on the fact that Bay Area folk refer to San Francisco as "The City": before moving to "The City" (San Francisco), I went to school in Rochester, NY, where many of the students were from New York City, "The City". Needless to say it got me for awhile hearing SF referred to as "The City" when to me that meant NYC. Well, I got over it.

    On a slightly different note, I have a friend from Northern Indiana, from a place she calls "The Region"; I guess this is like "The City" but larger and less metropolitan, huh?

    As for "the" highways, I don't remember "the" being used on numbered highways in the Bay Area or Santa Cruz. Here in Massachusetts, the sound of "The 90", "The 95", etc. is very weird; but we do have "The Pike" or generically, "The highway" (as opposed to West Coast, "The Freeway").

    Jeff Runner

    Message 5: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1992 08:40:14 Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
    From: John E. Koontz <>
    Subject: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    For what it's worth, in regard to `the Ukraine', peripheries usually take the article in English, whether native or borrowed: the Border, the Military Border (in reference to the southern provinces of Austria), the March, the Mark, the Banat, the Outlands, etc. However, German compounds for old border provinces don't seem to do this (in English): Kurmark, Altmark, Neumark, etc.

    Message 6: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 92 14:16:39 ESRe: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
    From: Lynda M. Milne <>
    Subject: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    Re Dan Slobin's and Paul Chopin's notes on Northern/Southern California freeway names:

    I used to work in Santa Ana and Oakland, and in both places get frequent directions to visit customer sites. I noticed at least 8 years ago that SoCal folks almost always used an article plus the freeway number ("Take the five to the 405, then get off on the 55...). In Northern California (where I lived for 18 years), I NEVER heard "the 101, the five, the 17." Instead, one would "Take 80 to 580 to I-5." In Northern Cal, the article is only used with a highway's (non-numeric) proper name: "The MacArthur is backed up all the way to the Nimitz."

    This is one of those little things I could never get anyone else to notice. So glad it's finally receiving its proper attention! :) ___________________________________________________________ Lynda Milne Internet: Project FLAME BITNET: HLF5UMICHUM 2018 Modern Language Bldg University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1275 Telephone: 313-763-0454 ___________________________________________________________

    Message 7: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 92 12:31:53 -0Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames
    From: <>
    Subject: Re: 3.914 Articles in Placenames

    Regarding the recent spate of postings concerning the definite article in freeway names in California: in southern southern California, that is, the San Diego area, no article is used: It's "take 5 to 805 to 8 east..."

    Jeff Kaplan Linguistics SDSU

    Message 8: THE City

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1992 15:44 ESTTHE City
    Subject: THE City

    Michael A. Erickson ( asks:

    >> By the way, in the Bay Area, San Francisco is referred to as "The >> City". Is this the case in other metropolitan areas?

    San Francisco can't possibly be The City. The City is New York! Does this answer your question? (:->)

    Message 9: RE 3.914 Placenames

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 1992 17:05:16 RE 3.914 Placenames
    From: Paul Saka <>
    Subject: RE 3.914 Placenames

    I can refer to highways either with or without the article: "880", "the 880". However, there are a couple of differences between the two. First, "the 880" is marked; although I might say it, I would do so only in a discourse where my interlocutor has already used the articled version. In a grad-school term paper, I argued that this kind of choosing between synonyms depends partly on recency priming. The second difference, for me, is that "the 880" is NOT a name. Rather, it is a truncated description that elliptically means "the 880 highway" or "the 880 freeway". Now I have a question for those speakers who use "the 880" as the unmarked variant: how many of you feel that "the 880" is a lexicalized name, and how many intuit that it is an elliptical description? Presumably it started, for everyone, as a description, and is now on the way to becoming a name. It would be interesting to trace how far along the path this is, and to see whether it correlates with the age and regional origin of the speaker.

    Paul Saka UI Urbana

    Message 10: Articles with highway numbers

    Date: Fri, 20 Nov 92 17:57:43 ESArticles with highway numbers
    From: Ian MacKay <>
    Subject: Articles with highway numbers

    In Ontario there is a variation on the use of the definite article with highway numbers. Highways are numbered by some system whose origin I do not know, but that number is prefixed by "4" (making a number in the 400's) if it is a divided highway (4 lanes or more). The same highway's desigation will vary at different points along its length. For example, Highway 17 comes into Ottawa, and is designated Highway 417 through the metropolitan area. The usage with respect to definite articles is that Highways in the 400's take the definite article and others take either nothing or the word "highway". So when asked for the fastest route to Toronto, one would reply that "you take 16 [or: Highway 16] south to the 401, then stay on the 401 all the way to Toronto." My experience in the American midwest (Ohio to be precise) is that you don't use the definite article with interstate highway numbers, though the the use of the "I" is variable. So (in Cincinnati) one might say "Take 75 north for 60 miles" or "Take I 75 north for 60 miles."

    What pattern emerges from these data (including the California data posted earlier)?