Definite Article: London Places That Drop The ‘The’

"Let's all...go down The Strand"...No! (Image by murphyz in the Londonist Flickr pool.)

Let’s clear something up once and for all. It’s Londonist, not The Londonist. Look at our logo. Can you see a ‘The’? Can you? There isn’t one — yet everybody adds one. You wouldn’t say ‘The Time Out’ or ‘The Private Eye’, would you? No. So don’t burden us with the extraneous letters. Imbeciles.

For such a small word, ‘the’ can so easily prompt passionate debate. Were we to refer you towards a shop on ‘The Strand’, an infuriated nitpicker would quickly materialise in the comments to point out the error of our ways (it’s just Strand). Likewise, London Stone — that ancient rock hidden away on Cannon Street — must never be preceded by a definite article. Nobody can really give a good explanation of why this should be so, but if you dare to write The London Stone, expect a snotty comment.

Countless hours have been lost around London’s cultural institutions in similar debate. Wellcome Collection, for example, is emphatically not The Wellcome Collection, even though saying “I’m going to Wellcome Collection” sounds like you’re eagerly anticipating a removal firm. To confound further, sister organisations The Wellcome Trust and The Wellcome Library both welcome a ‘The’, but not always. Museum of London reportedly vacillated over its branding, ditching the T word in its logo, but using it in communications. London Transport Museum slaps our wrist every time we sneak a The into its name. And so on.

Scala, not The Scala. The Green Park and The Regent’s Park but plain old Victoria Park and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Barbican, but Southbank Centre. Just (the) tip of (the) iceberg.

Then, of course, there are the thoroughfares which sometimes gain a definite article in speech: The Edgware Road, for example. In this case, the custom does serve a small purpose. Appending a ‘The’ to a road can indicate that it leads to a particular place, rather than simply being named after that place. Compare, say, ‘The Uxbridge Road’, which does indeed eventually lead to Uxbridge, with York Road in Waterloo, which goes nowhere near York, and is thus never referred to as ‘The York Road’. However, we suspect most people refer to ‘The Old Kent Road’, ‘The Euston Road’ and other such routes simply to sound a bit folky, rather than to achieve a deeper shade of meaning.

Does any of it really matter? Probably not, but we reserve the right to rant at you, next time you call us The Londonist.

(The) End

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  • Jonn Elledge

    You’ve been holding this in for a long time, haven’t you?

    • Dave H

      It’s been a long time coming.

  • BethPH

    Was it my highlighting the Epping Forest Guardian’s use of ‘The Londonist’ last night which was the final straw??

    • MattFromLondonist

      Haha, maybe. But they all do it.

  • Ben Reynolds

    I think people add ‘The’ if they intuitively think it sounds better with ‘The'; ‘Scala’ doesn’t ‘Londonist’ does.

    • Jonn Elledge

      Scala, of course, sounds better with “La”.

  • Lindsey Ford

    My dad is the only person I know who calls it ‘the Commercial Road’ and ‘the Elephant and Castle’. I have no idea why, but I would never argue with him.

    • HHGeek

      Proper locals (rather than newcomers) in E1 often refer to “The Commercial”, not even bothering with the “Road”. I grew up in Southend & my ex-London family always called it “The Commercial Road”, so maybe it’s an historical thing arising from a new road having been imposed fairly recently? Pretty sure the tunnel is also Limehouse Link rather than The …, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it without the definite article.

  • Mandy Southgate

    I never really thought of it before but I think I’m ruined now. I’ll forever be defaulting to “The Londonist” and correcting myself now. Then again, my kid brother calls me The Mandy so it’s not all bad.

  • LondonRemembers

    Right, We’ve been through all our posts and believe we’ve caught every “The Londonist” and zapped each of the blighters. But our entry for London Bridge,,

    “… the magnificent Londonist.”

    Is this allowed?

    • MattFromLondonist

      Haha, wonderful, thanks.
      Yes, ‘the magnificent Londonist’ will do nicely. ‘The Londonist website’ is also acceptable, as the ‘the’ is referring to the word ‘website’,

  • London Historians

    I’m very pro “the”, simply because scumsucking parasites known as branding consultants have made a great living by persuading the gullible to carelessly and casually drop their “The”, like some chewing gum wrapper. It will always remain The Tate to me. Old people unconsciously fight against the malign influence of the BCs by actually adding extraneous definite articles, notably in the area of narcotics, e.g. not just heroin, but “the” heroin. More power to them and their wisdom.

    • MattFromLondonist

      Thanks for that, The London Historians.

      • London Historians

        Members can call us whatever they want. :-)

  • Alistair Twiname

    I think there is a difference between saying “the Welcome Collection” and “The Welcome Collection” the ‘the’ being in the sentence not being the name… also don’t get me started on people who italisise ‘The Times of London’ and not just ‘the times bit…. and people who think that a band is singular and so you shouldn’t say you saw ‘them’ you saw ‘it’.

    • Mark Walley

      See also, various bands. The Beatles are The Beatles. They definite article is part of their name. Foo Fighters are just Foo Fighters, I guess you can say “I saw the Foo Fighters”, but heaven help you if you capitalise the the in their name.

      • HHGeek

        What about The The? Would you have been to see the The The?

  • Matt Salts

    I’ve noticed an inconsistency from tube drivers over Bank. I’ve always thought the stop was “Bank”, but I’ve often heard them say that the Northern Line will be going via “The Bank”. I do like the definite article here, though – it sounds very portentous.

    • MattFromLondonist

      Yes! Good one. Is this done with other Tube stops named after landmarks? The Oval. The Mansion House.

      Also, The Arsenal.

      • London Historians

        Monument. Temple.

      • Mark Walley

        Hmm, I’d always call the station Arsenal, but if I said I was going to the stadium I might say I was going to The Arsenal.

    • HHGeek

      Sounds more destructive / illegal to me.

  • Time Out London

    Ydon Bois has been trying to make the same point for yonks.

  • BolshyGrammarian

    Pish tosh, you’ll remain The Londonist to mark the distinction from the common or garden variety of Londonists. It’s because you’re the definite article, init. 😛

  • HHGeek

    Whilst we’re on really annoying mistakes, please can I put in a word for shooting everyone who refers to St.Katherine’s Dock rather than St.Katherine Docks? Including, on occasion, me?

  • Rupert Dannreuther PI

    Hehe our website is always called ‘The To Do List’ too, I hate it! It’s ‘To Do List’

  • Tina Gray

    When working in an opticians that was then next door to the Savoy Hotel the address did include a “The” being placed before “Strand” so as it read ” The Strand” but after reading your rant regarding misusing ” The” when speaking of such places where ” The” has no rightful place I had to first check back to ensure my reply contained accurate info…yep we definitely addressed our branch ” The Strand ” but I agree with you that it was a misuse of that little “The” to blame & I actually worked in our ” Strand ” branch, not in our branch which was on ” The Strand “. I shall take more care & attention in my placing of ” The ” when posting anything which may start off another Londonist rant. Thank you for reserving your right to rant at anyone daring to call ” Londonist ” ” The Londonist ” .I worry for your future well-being at this point and hope that your momentary loss of sanity returns so that you may go forth and rant another day x

  • Themaclean

    I think BolshyGrammarian is right. Using the definite article confers uniqueness or superiority. This is expressed in phrases such as: “He’s the man”, or “You’re the one”, “the/da champ” “The Queen”.

    On this basis, maybe we should start calling London, “THE LONDON” so we don’t have to hear our upstart colonial cousins using that ridiculous phrase, “London, England”. Bloody cheek!

  • Romantična geekica

    Well, I’m not a native speaker, but they taught us in school that THE means something specific, or important…so wouldn’t that mean that putting -the in front of your name is in fact a compliment, like, not just a blog- the blog… :)

  • Jonathan Wadman

    Guildhall. That is all.