Ambiguously arthrous band names

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Below is a query from Garrett Wollman, which I'm putting up as a guest post for LL readers to answer. For some background on the (an)arthrous terminology, see e.g.

"Syntax under pressure", 8/28/2007
"(An)arthrous abbreviations", 9/17/2007
"Language Log is strong", 9/16/2007
"Language Log only pretty strong", 9/30/2007
"Anarthrous irony", 3/27/2010
"'The' culture war", 12/16/2010
"BofA goes anarthrous in the Bay Area", 4/27/2011

Recently on alt.usage.english, contributor "Navi" asked:

Which is correct:

1-I saw THE "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, not the remake with Christian Bale.
2-I saw "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, not the remake with Christian Bale.

Interestingly, some respondents (myself included) considered both sentences acceptable, some others said that form (1) was only acceptable in informal speech (with the implication being that some words, such as "version of", were elided), and a few said that (1) was not acceptable at all.

After the thread had drifted a bit, as they do, I brought up the issue of anarthrous band names, and in particular the existence of some bands who insist on being anarthrous even though our natural intuition wants the definite article there, and many radio announcers (e.g.) will stick it in.  Any intuition (or better yet, any evidence) on this one?  Here's what I wrote:

A quick rundown of some anarthrous band names with plural morphology:

10,000 Maniacs, Agents of Good Roots, Barenaked Ladies*, BoDeans*, Broken Bells, Counting Crows*, Cowboy Junkies*, Crash Test Dummies*, Damn Yankees, Dire Straits, Dixie Chicks*, Finn Brothers*, Foo Fighters*, Grey Eye Glances, Guns N' Roses, Hooters*, Indigo Girls*, Knots and Crosses, Los Lonely Boys, Men at Work, New Radicals*, Primitive Radio Gods, Psychedelic Furs*, Red Hot Chili Peppers*, Scars on 45, Simple Minds, Smashing Pumpkins*, Spice Girls*, Stone Temple Pilots, Talking Heads*, Tears for Fears, Thompson Twins* (not actually twins and not named Thompson).

I've marked with an asterisk the ones that frequently get the definite article added; my intuition is that it's only used when the band name could plausibly refer to its members.

Of course, there's also the issue that I can only go by what's written on the label — and sometimes these are different from one album to the next, suggesting that in at least some cases this is simply a matter of the packaging designer's preference.

For comparison I also included a list of bands whose names include the definite article (I didn't find any in my library with indefinite articles, although I know that some exist), this time with both plural and singular forms:

The Alarm, The Bangles, The Big Wu, The Black Crowes, The Bobs, The Chieftains, The Church, The Clash, The Corrs, The Cranberries, The Cure, The Damnwells, The Decemberists, The Dream Academy, The Heights, The Jam, The Jayhawks, The Lumineers, The Mama & The Papas, The Outfield, The Police, The Romantics, The Soup Dragons, The Sundays, The The, The Thorns, The Vanity Project (not actually a band), The Wailin' Jennys, The Wallflowers, The Waterboys, The Why Store, The Wingdale Community Singers, The XX, The Zombies.


[Above is a guest post by Garrett Wollman]


  1. Ben Zimmer said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 11:22 am

    Dale Eisinger wrote a whole article on arthrousness in band names earlier this year for Maura Magazine (subscription only, but worth it).

  2. Chris said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 11:23 am

    One other band of note is (the) Arcade Fire, who frequently get the article, even though the name couldn't plausibly refer to their members. In fact, the two forms are in alternation on their own label's profile of them ( Without the article it sounds somewhat ungrammatical but I can't explain why other than as إضافة.

    There are also some bands with different articles, such as That Dog, My Morning Jacket, My Dear Disco.

  3. The Ridger said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 11:51 am

    Hmmm. I myself would never put the article in front of Arcade Fire, or any other band whose name isn't a count noun (like the Carolina Chocolate Drops).

    On the other hand, I think "3:10 to Yuma" is getting interference from the practice of calling trains "the 3:10".

  4. Jon Weinberg said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 11:52 am

    Surely Los Lonely Boys is not anarthous?

  5. The Ridger said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    Los Lonely Boys is not anarthrous, though I too have heard them called "the Los Lonely Boys". Just as you can find "the The Doors" and "the The Who", too.

  6. Y said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

    Scorpions is definitely anarthrous. Never "The Scorpions".

  7. Michael Greenberg said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

    How can you forget "Eagles", one of the more notable instances of deliberate anarthousness?

  8. G said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

    A few years back, some fans got really insistent that Pixies is anarthrous, and that "no true fan" would ever refer to them as the Pixies. But given that the Wikipedia article consistently refer to them as the Pixies, and doesn't even mention a naming controversy, I am guessing it's been debunked.

  9. richard said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

    Talking Heads is another example, who brought out a double live album called "The Name of this Band is Talking Heads." I believe there is even a snippet on the album of David Byrne introducing the band by saying the same phrase.

  10. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

    Some Stones LP's say "Rolling Stones" on the cover; others say "The Rolling Stones." Let It Bleed (which I just pulled my venerable copy of off the shelf for closer inspection upon returning home from church), is consistently anarthrous from the cover to the inside sleeve to the label on the record itself EXCEPT that the photo on the cover includes an image of an LP with a label saying "The Rolling Stones" (also an image of the sort of metal canister used to hold reel-to-reel tapes with a handwritten label saying merely "STONES"). I do not think the band's name or their subjective preferences on arthrousness actually changed from album to album.

    I do not think that the practice with respect to morphologically/semantically plural band names (default arthrous at least if not compound) and morphologically/semantically singular band names (default probably anarthrous but one might be able to describe coherent subcategories where arthrousness becomes more likely) are necessarily different aspects of the same phenomenon; I think they're separate phenomena with separate histories although no doubt with some historical cross-talk/interference with each other.

    In particular, singular band names were not present at the beginning but arose rather suddenly circa 1966, at which time my impression is that they were initially perceived as zany or psychedelic or something. (Band names of that morphological form were so standard by the time I became aware of rock music in the mid-70's it's a bit hard to imagine what they must have seemed like when unconventional.) I suspect that a good corpus linguistics study would show that some of the early singular bands were referred to arthrously a higher percentage of the time early on than they are in retrospect. (If you've got a good corpus, I would try this on (the) Buffalo Springfield and (the) Soft Machine as US/UK samples; also possibly Jefferson Airplane / Pink Floyd, although there may be some band-specific complicating factors there.) I suspect genuinely anarthrous plural names arose (including some where the referent is not standard count-nounish and would thus not be arthrous in common usage, e.g. Dire Straits) only after morphologically singular names had cleared the way.

    In the early-to-mid '70's there's the well-known case of the band that became stars in the UK as The Sweet and then tried with more inconsistent success to break the US market anarthrously rebranded as Sweet. (Some US fans would add the article as a signal that they were unusually hip or in the know.) is a vintage post from way back in 2005 addressing the more unusual case of what you might call strongly-arthrous band names, e.g. Thee Headcoats.

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

    Additional data (although obv. artists w/ #1 hits are not necessarily representative). If you look at who hit #1 on the Billboard pop charts in '66 through '69, there are only four singular bands, three of which are unambiguously arthrous, i.e. The Lovin' Spoonful, The Association, and The Fifth Dimension. Strawberry Alarm Clock ("Incense and Peppermints," #1 in late '67) is often but not always anarthrous. By contrast, just in '76 and '77 (by which time I was listening to top 40 hits in "real time" rather than as oldies) you had Wild Cherry, Chicago, Rose Royce, Fleetwood Mac, and Meco, none of which had any arthrous variant usage that I can recall. (Although I wouldn't be surprised if some references to the original Peter Green etc. lineup of the band circa '67 or '68 had it as "The Fleetwood Mac.")

  12. Eric Johnson said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

    There's An April March, whose indefinite article became important in retrospect to distinguish them from April March.

  13. The Ridger said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

    @Y: although their website is and it refers to the SCORPIONS all over the page.

  14. Rod Johnson said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 2:24 pm

    I could only come up with A Certain Ratio for indefinites, though I'm sure there are others. I also wonder how many clausal names there are (The Teardrop Explodes, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah).

  15. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

    One further datapoint of a specific band's practices: the arthrous plural R&B group The Parliaments transformed itself c. 1970 into the anarthrous singular funk group Parliament (the "P" side of the Januslike Parliament-Funkadelic mothership).

  16. Clint W said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

    I just finished reading Born Standing Up, the memoir of entertainer/writer Steve Martin, and I was amused at this paragraph late in the book, relevant to this topic:

    One late night I was lingering in the bar and talking to Glenn Frey, who was just leaving his duo, Longbranch Pennywhistle. He said he was considering a name for his new five-man group. "What is it?" I said. He said "Eagles." I said, "You mean, the Eagles." He said, "No, Eagles." I said, "You mean, the Eagles?" He said "No, I mean Eagles." The name of the group remains, of course, Eagles.

    However, as a child of the '70s who saw this band live back in their heyday, I have to admit that I've always thought of them as the Eagles.

  17. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

    With The The, can the article be dropped when the name's used attributively, as in that Beatles record? It's hard to make sense of I had that The album or There were The T-Shirts all over the floor.

    Also, while my intuition is the same as MYL's for THE "3:10 to Yuma"… how about Was it THE The The you saw, or a tribute band?

  18. mollymooly said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 3:41 pm

    With regard to the original question, for me:

    * I saw the "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, not the remake is fine. The placing of the opening quote preserves the anarthrousness in writing; and in speech, who cares and why?
    * I saw "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, not the remake with Christian Bale. Works too, but needs a stronger contrastive stress if the article is absent.
    * I saw "3:10 to Yuma", with Glenn Ford. works as a standalone only with the comma.
    * I saw "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford. means Glenn was in the seat next to mine.
    * I saw "3:10 to Yuma" (the one with Glenn Ford, not the remake). works in conversation, assuming you only realised the potential for confusion partway through the utterance.

  19. Adrian said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

    This seems a pretty normal and sensible use of the definite article to me. I saw the Film Name with Actor Name, not the Same Film Name with Different Actor Name.

  20. G said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

    How about with personal names?

    "I'm having dinner with Joe. (The) Joe from work, not (the) Joe from across the street."

    Doesn't quite work, does it?

  21. Rubrick said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

    The Pretenders began as just "Pretenders", but by their third album, Learning To Crawl, they seem to have given in to peer pressure and officially added the "The".

  22. Jon Weinberg said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

    Phrasal names aren't immune to definite-article-appending. The wikipedia entry on Lucky Oceans states: "As member of the Asleep at the Wheel he won the Grammy Award for the 'Best Country Instrumental' in 1978 . . . ." The fact that "the" isn't capitalized, though, suggests that this might be an editing error rather than a recasting of the name.

  23. Ellen K. said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

    Barenaked Ladies is an interesting one. It seems to me, that if you think about what the band name means, and if you know the band members are males (in clothes), then it makes sense to not add the definite article.

    It fits with what it says in the original post, if we think of the noun band name as describing the members, it's natural to add a "the".

    It feels wrong to just say or write Eagles instead of the Eagles because I think of the band name as representing who the band are. But with Barenaked Ladies, I think of the band name as representing something the band likes, not something they are. So leaving off the definite article works just fine for me.

    Interesting to note that the new Eagles DVD (anarthrous there, because we don't generally do a double "the") is called "History of the Eagles", with a "the". That may be because leaving it off makes it sound like a documentary about birds, though. And the definite article is on the line with "History of" above "Eagles", rather than with the band name.

  24. Miguel Viterbo said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

    A Flock of Seagulls, A Tribe Called Quest, A Perfect Circle, A Fine Frenzy.

    And, of course, the Norwegian band a-ha. :)

  25. The Ridger said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

    I could say "the Joe from work, not the one from across the street" though my intuition is that would be the question, and the answer would be anarthrous.

  26. Narmitaj said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

    Pink Floyd started (after being The Tea Set) by calling themselves The Pink Floyd Sound and then just The Pink Floyd before getting to Pink Floyd.

    I think in early days Google would have found difficulty with searching for a band called The The, maybe advising you to omit common words from your search string. But nowadays, certainly, The The the band comes top.

    The The The album I like best is Infected.

  27. Ted said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 7:20 pm


    Indeed, I have recently seen either a print quotation or a recorded interview (can't remember, and CBA to track down the source) in which at least one longtime associate of Messrs. Gilmour, Mason, and Waters, and perhaps one of those gentlemen themselves, told a story dating from the 1970s that included a reference to "the Floyd."

  28. Garrett Wollman said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

    By the way, I intentionally put "Los Lonely Boys" into the anarthrous category — alhough "los" is an article in Spanish, it hasn't yet entered the English language, and there are plenty of English-speakers who do not know Spanish. Can you distinguish this case from other proper nouns which include non-English articles? (For extra credit, explain how this works with Arabic articles — it seems to me that most Arabists leave them out, whereas journalists double up.)

  29. Mark Mandel said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

    In the poll (which I only saw here, just now), I read form #1 —

    "I saw THE "3:10 to Yuma" with Glenn Ford, not the remake with Christian Bale."

    — as having a stressed article, because of the all-caps. This, of course, is not simply the definite article, but means "the real one; I accept no imitations." Was that intentional?

  30. Garrett Wollman said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

    @Mark Mandel: You'd have to ask "Navi" about that. I interpreted "THE" as him drawing attention to the added word, but I'll admit that I did not compare that post with other posts of his/hers asking other usage questions (He or she asks such questions frequently, usually with very little context; I and other posters generally assume that they are taken from some ESL textbook.)

  31. Chris Waters said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    I'm not sure Smashing Pumpkins is an example. The Wikipedia article is "The Smashing Pumpkins", and apparently the band has used both forms over the course of the years (much like (The) Rolling Stones). Which is interesting and slightly counterintuitive to me, because I always interpreted the "smashing" in the name as a gerund rather than a participle, much like Counting Crows or Throwing Muses.

    Furthermore, "smashing" has a completely different meaning to me when interpreted as a noun (a destructive act) or an adjective (really excellent). Adding "the" forces me to interpret it as an adjective, and thus totally changes the meaning of the band's name. At least to me.

  32. Bob Couttie said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

    This is a issue I've ever quite resolved with regard to ships: "THE Costa Concordia grounded" or "Costa Concordia grounded".

  33. Jon Weinberg said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

    Hi Garrett,
    However we characterize other proper nouns with non-English articles, I think it's appropriate to characterize Los Lonely Boys as arthrous because I think the meaning is both well-understood and intended. The band members have performed in both Spanish and English; (I assume that) they chose a name with both Spanish and English elements in order to reflect those two facets of their identity; and that message gets through, because the proportion of English speakers in their home state of Texas, and in their larger audience, who understand the word "Los" (when used in an appropriate context) is very high. I haven't done the survey, but here where I live in southeastern Michigan, I'd guess that very few native-born adults who encounter the name fail to understand the meaning.

  34. maidhc said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 12:47 am

    People will always put "the" in front of a band name and also make it plural if there is any possible way to do so. It's just one of those laws of nature. You think you're so clever calling your band "Furniture", but the day after your first gig people will be saying "Did you see The Furnitures last night?"

  35. Adrian Morgan said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 3:11 am

    On my first glance at this blog post, I assumed it was nominating "Syntax Under Pressure" as a band name. Can't say I disagree, but I'm unconvinced by the other items in the list.

  36. navi said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 4:20 am

    Garrett is correct in that the "the" was in all-caps just to attract attention, I did not mean for it to mean that that version was THE real thing.

    The sentences were made up by me and were not from a textbook.


  37. BobC said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 4:53 am

    Let's not forget the British band The The (which I don't think anyone has ever called the The The). Would that be an example of a polyarthrous band?

  38. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 5:06 am

    They haven't been forgotten Bob – they were mentioned by MYL in his post, and me and Narmitaj in comments above!

  39. Leon Hartt said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 6:46 am

    Back to Garrett Wollmann's question somewhere in the middle of the comments, on Arabic: I'll have a shot at answering that one.

    For one thing, what might be confusing about Arabic arthrous expressions for non-speakers is that the /l/ of the article "al" assimilates with certain consonants (all coronals except /d͡ʒ/) at the beginning of the word, whereas with the others, it doesn't (cf. Hence, journalists not knowing this might think that e.g. in the name of the majority Tunisian Islamist party al-nahḍa, pronounced [annahḍa], the "an-" is actually part of the proper name and not the assimilated article*. On the other hand, those knowing this might feel inclined to include the (assimilated) article in their transcription in order to give readers an idea of what the name should actually be pronounced like, and then carry over the practice to names beginning with a non-coronal consonant (such as al-qaida).

    Secondly, many proper names are arthrous in Arabic itself: Al-Jazeera is called that, not Jazeera (that would mean "island"). Similarly, the names of newspapers: Al-hayat, El-masry el-youm. Those names are written with the article in the Arabic script as well as (sometimes) their official transcribed name in Roman letters. To include the article makes a lot of sense, since it marks definiteness and thus is used to distinguish THE hayat from just "haya" (the "t" isn't actually pronounced, but written in the official transcription), which is "life". There is also the very frequent "genitive" construction iḍāfa, which creates a kind of compound between any number of nouns by putting them behind each other, all except the last one indefinite, and the last one marked for definiteness very often with the article. Lots of fixed expressions of this form exist (for example the Arabic name of the Arab League, Jāmiʻat ad-Duwal al-ʻArabiyya, where the first two nouns form an iḍāfa and ´arabiyya is an adjective modifying them) and it would be simply wrong to write them without the article (before the last noun, that is – it would be just as wrong to put an article before the first one).

    Thirdly, as to the perceived different practice in journalistic writing and that of Arabists: I guess that also has to do with the fact that Arabists more often discuss just Arabic words, where it makes sense to leave the article out. Journalists however might be more likely to write about the proper names of institutions in the Arab world, in which case the article, as explained above, is actually required (in Arabic as well). Where that isn't the case, and where an Arabic term is not referred to as a proper name, I think journalists would also be likely to leave the article out: I looked for "jihad" on google news, and at least the first three pages are all instances without definite articles, Arabic or English.

    *In this case, that's actually true: the name is an allusion to THE nahḍa, that is, the Arabic renaissance movement from the late 19th and early 20th century:

  40. Brian T said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 7:24 am

    I remember Eurythmics insisting on being called "Eurythmics" instead of "The Eurythmics." And if you judge by album covers, the "Close to You" band is always "Carpenters," never "The Carpenters."

  41. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 7:39 am

    @ Leon Hartt

    Fascinating. Does anyone know if some similar assimilation happens in French with the masculine singular article? As a mediocre French speaker and worse comprehender, it often sounds to me as if le is realised as a sort of general lateral-ness spread between the previous and following words (especially if the former is a preposition). If that makes any sense.

  42. Leon Hartt said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    Well, my practical knowledge of French is probably similarly limited, but can't the contracted prepositions du (< *de le) and au (< *a le) be considered evidence for your idea? I mean, in that case it's more than just a general lateralness, the /l/ has become nothing more than a target for the tongue as to where to articulate the vowel (in "du" at least, in "au" that's probably what it used to be, before the [a] and [y] sounds then merged to [o], but I'm out on a limb here, I'm not really familiar with French historical phonology). But given that this must have happened quite some time ago since it's reflected in the otherwise fairly conservative (if not to say reactionary) orthography, it's a good question to ask why it shouldn't have happened in other places more obviously as well, or if it's still at work.

  43. Dave Noble said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 8:27 am

    And of course, what about Le dZeppelin

    [(myl) Funny you should ask — Zits for 6/16/2013:


  44. Pflaumbaum said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 8:37 am

    I think the Vulgar Latin "dark l" tended to get vocalised in Old French before consonants or word boundaries. As in chaud from caldus, plurals in -aux from -als, etc.

  45. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    I'm pretty sure the one thing you can't do (for a morphologically plural-count-noun band name) is judge by album covers. Or rather, an omitted "the" in that context is a necessary but by no means sufficient condition (and thus not very strong evidence) for a genuinely anarthrous name. For actual contemporaneous usage evidence, Google books has back runs of a fair number of music trade magazines and other magazines that carried record reviews, so it's not that hard (if you add some date constraints and a disambiguating keyword or two) to pull up lots of reviews of the first two Pretenders albums and compare the incidence of the arthrous and anarthrous versions of the band's name in running prose.

    Via the digital archives of William & Mary's library, I've pulled up a pdf of the Top 100 singles chart from the January 4, 1969 issue of Cashbox (Billboard's onetime leading competitor), and they seem as a matter of house style to have clipped all instances of band-initial "the" (with one exception which I think has got to be an editing glitch), but did not figure out a consistent style as to what to do with compound names. So, e.g., they have "Diana Ross & Supremes," "Sly & the Family Stone," and "Booker T & The MG's."

  46. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    Some while after (supposedly self-consciously anarthrous) Talking Heads broke up, three of the four core members (everyone except David Byrne) put out an album titled "No Talking, Just Head," arthrously credited to . . . The Heads. Perhaps this is a sign that the self-conscious anarthrousness was a tic of Byrne's that the rest of the band thought an embarassing affectation? On the other hand, this was rumored to be one of these situations where lawyers were involved and it's possible the name used for the new project was the result of settlement negotiations.

  47. Dan T. said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

    Eagles can be birds or U.S. gold coins.

    The Eagles can be a football team.

  48. Coby Lubliner said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

    There is also a problem with arthrous names of periodicals. Have you seen today's [The?] Times? How about the (The?) latest [The?] Economist? I read about it in the (The?) New Yorker.

    On a different note: there was once a chancellor at UC Berkeley who decided that the highest-ranking of his vice chancellors would be styled The Vice Chancellor. Before long this official was being referred to as the The [ðə ði:] Vice Chancellor. (The present title is Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost.)

  49. Mark said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

    I'm curious now about how you'd say "THE The The". Did the band have a preferred pronunciation? Is the band "Thee Thee", "Thuh Thee", "Thuh Thuh", or "Thee Thuh"? When reading the comment above I read it in my head naturally as "Thee Thuh Thee"… and then realized that used both "hard" and "soft" forms and started to wonder.

  50. Mick O said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

    I just wanted to add two cents noting that sometimes adding the definite article to the band name significantly changes the possible meaning of the name. (And, this related to the UK vs USA thing) I grew up in the USA well aware of the English band Cream, but only years later in unearthing the old BBC recordings was startled to hear them referred to as The Cream. I felt as if my whole understanding of the name needed to shift.

    Thanks for the post.

  51. Lane said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 2:59 pm

    @Chris Waters, Counting Crows has a lyric (in "A Murder of One") with the words "as you stood there, counting crows", and follows with a riff on the "counting crows" nursery rhyme ("One for sorrow, two for joy…") So it's fairly clear that they are not meant to be crows who count, but "the [gerund] counting of crows".

  52. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

    That gerundive analysis might also work for generally anarthrous Throwing Muses. I.e., "Muses" is the answer to "What are they throwing" rather than "Throwing" be the answer to "which kind of muses." Since on that analysis you don't actually have an NP, you would expect anarthrousness.

  53. Nic Dafis said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 5:15 pm

    Cardiacs are consistently anarthrous, and their fans can get quite tetchy about it.

  54. KeithB said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

    All these comments and no one has mentioned the U2.

  55. Edwin den Boer said,

    June 17, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

    "Anarthrous irony" would be a great name for a pretentious indie band, especially if they changed it to "The Anarthrous Irony".

    U2 has a song in English with the Irish title An Cat Dubh, which surprised me when I learned An was a definite article.

    The typical anarthrous band name I expected in this article is Editors (previously known – or rather unknown at the time – as Pilot, The Pride and Snowfield).

    My last name contains a definite article, and I've always wondered why this is common in Dutch and French, but not in English and other European languages. Is there any explanation for this difference?

  56. Nathan Myers said,

    June 18, 2013 @ 2:03 am

    "No Bad Thing". A member insisted on calling it "The No Bad Things", apparently just to needle the rest. It didn't last long.

  57. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 18, 2013 @ 10:09 am

    I'll stick this here lest it seem potentially disrespectful to the late Prof. Goodenough if posted there, but I was struck by the arthrousness of the phrase "graduated from the Groton School" in the obit myl started that memorial post with. Turns out you can use google n gram to see how "from the Groton School" and "from Groton School" have dueled it out in usage frequency over the years, but even intermittently-arthrous high schools are unusual in the modern U.S. and I expect are associated with a fairly specific social-class signal. (Although even among the poshest boarding schools there are some whose names are syntactially structured in a way that I would expect would block even optional arthrousness, e.g. St. Paul's and Miss Porter's.)

  58. Ben K said,

    June 18, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

    Another example of a band name where "the" is used even as the rest of the name is not even clearly an NP: The Hold Steady

  59. Tino said,

    June 18, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

    What are we to make of An Horse?

  60. SlideSF said,

    June 19, 2013 @ 12:51 am

    I'm sure that this has nothing to do with arthrousness or anarthrousness, but it seems somehow similar to this uneducated ear – What's the deal with, or the name for adding an "s" (whether plural or possessive is anyone's guess) to the names of certain things, mainly alcoholic beverages? Such as Heineken's, Jameson's, Miller's, Captain Morgan's etc. (the apostrophes are provided gratis, I can't actually hear them pronounced). Granted, there are many brand names that are possessive, like Ballantine's, Dewar's, Bailey's; and some that just end in an "s" like Early Times and Evan Williams. But still, what does it say about English, or language in general, that so many people feel the need to provide an "s" where none is needed?

  61. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 22, 2013 @ 11:49 am

    This is belated, but just in the interests of contributing to human knowledge on this topic, I did some corpus research this morning on presence/absence of band-name definite articles on album covers, using, as one sometimes has to do in science, a dataset assembled by someone else for different purposes using uncertain and perhaps arbitrary criteria (viz., the 1960's section of "1000 Record Covers," selected/edited by Michael Ochs and published by Taschen Books). First finding: first unambiguously anarthrous plural band name is a 1965 album credited on the cover to KINKS (the US version of their UK debut which was released over there in '64 with an equally anarthrous cover). Caveat: The Kinks are conventionally referred to arthrously, and were at least intermittently arthrous on their album covers by no later than 1967 (the "Something Else by the Kinks" LP). Further caveat: lots of early '60's LP covers look anarthrous at a distance because the "the" or "The" is in much smaller type (and sometimes a different font) than the plural-noun it goes with. Final caveat for this finding: the 1964 album titles "Five Live Yardbirds" and "Astronauts On Kampus" omit the article (and because the title incorporates the band's name the band's name is not given separately on the cover), but I think following somewhat standard syntactic processes that doesn't suggest overall anarthrousness. Indeed, the picture of the band on the latter shows "The Astronauts" written on the face of the kick drum.

    Second finding: there are multiple anarthrous singular band names beginning in 1967 (Vanilla Fudge being one of a number) and subsequent years. 1966 has two names given anarthrously that I'm not entirely sure how to analyze on the singular/plural dimension: Count Five and Sir Douglas Quintet. But both of those are frequently if not ubiquitously referred to arthrously in conversation and running prose, so all of this confirms the point I made upthread that the exclusion of a definite article on an album cover (at least for plural names) is not a reliable guide to actual usage.

  62. Craig said,

    June 22, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

    @SlideSF, I think the same overgeneralization exists for department store names. Several department stores have possessive names (e.g. Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Kohl's), so people commonly make possessives out of those which do not (e.g. *JCPenney's, *Nordstrom's, *Lord and Taylor's).

  63. Ray Dillinger said,

    June 24, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    I know a few (admittedly non-famous) musicians. Whether or not a band name is preceded with an article is not something they care about. I think that whomever puts the album cover together decides, and if he were to switch back and forth from arthrous to anarthrous forms with every album the band (himself included) probably wouldn't notice the difference.

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