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.