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This article is definitely, um, er, yes

Given only a small amount of time at the computer these days, YHB has spent way way too much of it enjoying the discussion of thee and thuh over at the Language Log. Since the conversation has become wide-ranging, David Beaver writes about The The, the The The, and The Who, and brings up an odd little notion that sticks in my mind concerning the capitalization of the article in band names. He points out that devotees of The The are unlikely to refer to them as the The. On the other hand, Dead-heads and unDead-heads alike would refer to the Grateful Dead, rather than The Grateful Dead. This is not so much because of the joke; one refers to The Who rather than the Who. Part of this is how strongly the the is part of the name of the band (unlike the Talking Heads, because the name of that band is Talking Heads). Try various bands in the sentence “I have four [band name] albums”:

I have four Grateful Dead albums
rather than
I have four The Grateful Dead albums

Clearly, though, a person would have four The The albums, and would never have four The albums. But where to other bands fall? One has four Beatles albums, or four Klezmatics albums, but four The Band albums, or (I think) four The Cars albums. Well, I wouldn’t say “four The Cars albums”, but it also would be awkward to say “four Cars albums”; I suppose I would have four albums by The Cars. OK, a couple of lists:

  • The Cranberries
  • The Clash
  • The Cramps
  • The Cure
  • The Ink Spots
  • The Kinks
  • The Mr. T Experience
  • The Police
  • The Proclaimers
  • The Specials


  • Beatles
  • B-52s
  • Go-Go’s
  • Magnetic Fields
  • Monkees
  • Pogues
  • Pretenders
  • Ramones
  • Rolling Stones
  • Smiths

Do I have those right? Is this something idiosyncratic, or is there general agreement about bands and the def article?

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,


Eee. This is one of those questions whose answer changes depending on whether or not you're thinking about the question. I can't really say I'd *ever* use the definite article in your "I have four X albums" sentence (except for The The, of whose albums I have none and therefore save myself the paradox) -- but I don't think that changes the underlying question.

To complicate matters, I'm pretty sure the musical group headed by Robert Smith has switched official names once or twice between The Cure and Cure. Thirty seconds of research is unable to confirm this memory.

Personally I would never say "I have four The Cranberries albums." (Do they even have four albums?) If I had to admit to such an odious thing, I would probably say "I have four Cranberries albums."

You're right, though, that it's another question entirely if (like with your the Cars example) you rephrase it "I have four albums by the Cranberries." I would never say "I have four albums by Cranberries."

But looking deeper at your lists specifically, I would probably argue with a few (the Police, the Pogues, the Smiths). To take the example of the Smiths (the most offensive truncation of "the" on your list, IMHO), I would be equally disturbed by "I have four Smiths albums" or "I have four the Smiths albums." I would probably go out of my way to the extent of creating social awkwardness to phrase that "I have four albums by the Smiths."

So I think it must be idiosyncratic, although some of them (The Clash, Ramones, etc.) I think you hit right on the ol' noggin.


i don't have any of smith's albums

What's an album?

I would drop "the" for all of those bands in the construction "I have four ___ albums." (I would say "four Who albums"; the Band doesn't work because of ambiguity, so I'd be forced to rephrase.) I think it's more about context for me than whether or not the article strongly adheres to the band name. It's hard not to add "the" when one says "I have four albums by Pixies."

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