English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am wondering about the interjection "oh, the horror!". If it should be treated as an interjection directed to "horror" (there are similar expressions in other languages), why does it use the article "the"? There is no article in "Oh Lord!" or "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", so why in "Oh the horror"?

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I always took it to be one of those phrases that represents a partial utterance, as in "Oh, the horror that this invokes...". You are not addressing "horror" directly or evocatively; it's not a name or a title. I get the same impression from the famous "Oh, the humanity" quote.

By comparison, if we say "Oh, Brother" or "Oh, Lord", that would be more in an evocative sense of a prayer ("Oh, Lord, give me strength...") in which case an article would just be senseless.


share|improve this answer

There is no article in "Oh Lord!"

"Oh Lord!" is what's called vocative and it should probably be spelled as O not Oh ("O Lord!").

When used in the phrase "oh, the horror!" it's an interjection.

Note that there's a comma of difference too: it's not "Oh, Lord!" and not "oh the horror!"

share|improve this answer

I think it is difficult to compare "Oh Lord" or "Oh Brother" with "Oh the horror". The "horror" is not a person, it describes a state.

The interjection in "Oh the horror" gives the phrase a equivalent meaning to "Oh what a horror".

share|improve this answer
I agree with you that we are not addressing or invoking horror, and that is the reason for the article. However, we need not only address beings. O Death, where is thy sting? or O Beauty, Passing Beauty!. – medica Apr 15 '14 at 0:06

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.