This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Nuts and Bolts: a shorter the

I'm all for enthusiasm, but some subjects do raise alarming passions.

Oddly, grammar is one of them.

The Australian Paul Mathis has suggested the Cyrillic letter “Ћ” as a replacement for the established but, in his opinion, too-long word the.

Mr Mathis has even invested AUS $38,000 in an app (though so far it's not been accepted by Apple).

The word the is said to be the commonest word in the English language, and having a special symbol for it would certainly save English users some time.

Mr Mathis not the first to think so. Middle English used the letter thorn with a small e after it to stand for the, like this: þe . In later typefaces it came to be written ye, which is still be seen when people are trying to be cute, as in Ye Olde Worlde Computer Shoppe, etc.

An even simpler solution is used by the canny and famously careful people of Yorkshire. Up there in t'north they quite often drop the he of the word the both in speech and writing (and even the t isn't really said, either).
But these solutions have the same fault as Ћ. As Mr Mathis says, they're quicker than writing the
Why is that a problem?
Because it means that people will have even less opportunity to think about what they're writing.
And, as we all know, it's thought, not words, that's usually the thing that's lacking in human language.
Word To Use Today: the. How easy is this? The word the used to be a demonstrative adjective (the same sort of word as this and those). It's related to the Old Frisian thi and the Old High German der.


  1. That has to be THE dumbest thing ever!

    1. Absolutely. Though the very worst idea would be to highlight each THE in blue. That takes ages!

    2. But it does look pretty! :)

      I hesitate to point this out, but you missed just one, and it's an important one!

      "And, as we all know, it's thought, not words, that's usually the thing that's lacking in human language."

    3. Thanks - they're curiously invisible. Shall sort it out at once!

    4. I don't think it would be quicker. As someone that can type, 'the' is banged out without so much as a blink of an eye. If I typed had to pause to find the the 'the' symbol, it would break my flow and take up valuable seconds that could be spent drinking or playing on the Xbox.

      The only benefit I can see in it is for texting and Twitter, etc, where brevity is important. Other than that, nope. There are better things to be spending your money on than redesigning the 'the'.

    5. And, in any case, if you wanted a single-letter THE then all you'd have to do is use the letter t.