"We always use the indefinite article."

The Loudest Word in Rock and Roll

In the '70s, the choice to leave off the definitive became more clearly artistically significant. "With punk being a neo-traditional form, returning to the roots of rock 'n' roll, it explains again why we get 'the' names going, along with three-chord progressions and traditional band instrumentations. It shouldn't try and have pretentions more than that," Zimmer said. "It gets revived again with The Strokes and The Killers and The Hives." [...]

"There are 330 different bands that start with 'The B' out of 3,884 bands in my consideration set," Schnoebelen said. "The major takeaway is that [charting] bands that start with 'the' have a striking preference for the next letter to be: b, j, k, m, and z. Meanwhile, bands seem to avoid following the 'the' with a, e, i, p, t, and u.

"The easiest thing to explain is the dislike for vowels -- it's probably an avoidance of what linguists call a 'hiatus'," Schnoebelen continued. "That is, it's lousy to say 'The Eagles' (and a lot easier to pronounce it 'Theagles'). There are exceptions to these patterns, but right now these are the patterns that are popping out as most significant."

Previously, previously, previously.

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12 Responses:

  1. phuzz says:

    The Refused, or just Refused? The article never settles the argument it opens with.

    • I see this from time to time with bands. Some people name them 'Foo' others 'The Foo'. I always have to go look at the album covers to figure out what the band actually call themselves. When it's fun is when it changes from album to album.

  2. James C. says:

    As a linguist… I am pleased to see us mentioned.

  3. Leonardo Herrera says:

    I hate the fucking Eagles, man.

  4. Jeremy Leader says:

    No mention of my favorite search-engine stopword test case, "The The"?

    Also, I had the immpression that circus and vaudiville acts (including magicians) had used the definite article quite a bit in the 19th century ("The Great So-and-So"). I suspect that sideshow connotation might have influenced some bands (for example The Residents).

  5. mattyj says:

    The Alison Pill is adorable. Just sayin'.

  6. thielges says:

    Theagles? That's how a lot of people pronounce my name.

  7. MattV says:

    "Current Music: The The -- The Mercy Beat ♬"

    Conincidence? I think not.

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