The the the – all the the thes!

Let’s do grammar for a spell.

The common notion of grammar is someone nitpicking on someone else making minor mistakes. Which, to be fair, pretty much summarizes what it’s all about, if only by putting all the right parts together. Nitpicking and making are vital components of any grammatical excursion, as is minor – it’s those small things that makes meaning happen. And someone has to do the nitpicking, and someone else has to care for it to be more than the strange thought of some random person. Preferably, so that they can share a laugh making intentional grammatical “mistakes”, making meanings that cannot but be jokes unto themselves.

Thus, let’s get it on.

What’s the difference between these two sentences?

The rock hit the street

Rock hit the street

The first impulse is to conclude that it is a definite article. “The.” The one sentence has it, the other doesn’t. And that’s the end of it, right?

Naaaaah. Let’s nitpick.

The first sentence is, clearly, about the rock. The one rock. The rock that, at some point and in some context, hit the street. It could be a small rock, somehow put into falling motion by a child in a temporary state of rocking action. Or it could be a radical revolutionary, making history by throwing the first stone that will spark the coming of the new order, setting things in motion as the rock hits the street and unmotions.

Or it could be an earthquake, putting many a rock – including the rock – into action. Or –

This could go on.

“Rock hit the street.” Now this is interesting. What is rock, in general? Is it a thing, a genre, a subculture, a mentality, a flow of hard to define emotions, a retroactive description of an ideal past state? And what does it mean for it to hit the street? Note – the street. The one particular street. Not “the streets” as a metaphor for urban settings in general, but the one street. That one.

We could have fun imagining each of these meanings hitting a particular street. And we could have fun varying the particular kind of street that’s subject to this hittage – from the small village street to Wall Street. But I think you’re subject to the particular thought right now:

All this wordage about one word? About one “the”?


And even more wordage that didn’t undergo the formality of actually happening. We don’t have to explore them all, just note that they are there, inherent in every word choice, telling untold stories by being the one way rather than the other.

Let’s rock the.




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