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

In the "cards against humanity" collocation, shouldn't the article the precede humanity, i.e. "cards against the humanity"? Does the word against somehow influence this situation?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, tchrist, F'x, kiamlaluno, StoneyB Sep 16 '12 at 16:49

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Can you give an entire source sentence where you've seen this? – Mitch Aug 14 '12 at 21:07
Sure, @Mitch. Whole collocation is a product title (no ad intended). – Dmitriy Aug 14 '12 at 21:09
'Cards for humanity' works. 'I love people, it's humanity that I can't stand' works. 'Oh the humanity (of the Hindenburg crashing)' contrasts and works. 'Humanity' by itself is like 'Justice' or 'Friendship' or other vague non-specific concepts, that don't usually require an article 'Pain is a treatable condition', except when referred to as a specific instance like 'the pain of psoriasis'. – Mitch Aug 14 '12 at 21:17
Adding to other comments, a parallelism item on an objective test might look like this: "crimes against humanity" ~ "crimes against the humanity" ~ 9,000,000 results ~ 40'000 results! – Elberich Schneider Aug 14 '12 at 21:33
Exactly, @XavierVidalHernández: the name of the game is an allusion to 'crimes against humanity'. – StoneyB Aug 14 '12 at 22:31
up vote 2 down vote accepted

It's a play on the expression "crimes against humanity" (itself apparently dating from the 1860 American National Republican Convention platform, describing slavery as such).

I think "humanity" is a mass noun here, and since there can only be one, the definite article feels superfluous.

share|improve this answer
The is very commonly used in cases where “there can be only one”, such as superlatives: the tallest building, the most likely outcome. Or unique things or places: the earth, the sky, the sun, the universe. – Jason Orendorff Aug 14 '12 at 22:54
I’m not really disagreeing with you on the substance, my point is that “mass noun”, meaning something uncountable, doesn’t sit well with saying there’s exactly “one” of something. – Jason Orendorff Aug 14 '12 at 22:55
Ok, that makes sence. Thank you, @Malvolio. – Dmitriy Aug 15 '12 at 3:01

In the question Matt linked to, Reg Dwight wrote

Now, I can't think of a (= any) simple rule of thumb when not to use an (= any) article at all, but here are some suggestions:

  • Don't put an (= any) article before a (= any) noun if the (= that) noun is preceded by:
    • a number
    • a possessive adjective ("my", "his", "our"...)
    • a "no", "some" or "any"
    • a "this", "that", "these" or "those"

Add to that, don't use an article where the noun is a generality (or maybe, an uncountable noun, like bread).

"Cards Against Humanity" uses Humanity as meaning either "mankind" (human beings collectively), or "the state of being human", or "the quality of being humane". Actually, given the game, any of those definitions would fit. The cards are deliciously anti-social!

"Cards Against the Humanity" would raise the questions "Which humanity?" or "The humanity of what?" because you are talking about a specific humanity or type of humanity. As the "which?" or "of what?" questions either cannot be answered or are not relevant here, it's not appropriate to use the definite article.

share|improve this answer
@Xavier: You're wrong. Bread, never breads; information generally or the information (specific data), but never informations. Answer is a concrete noun and so can take an article. And I've already told you that abstract/concrete does not correspond to uncountable/countable. And it's unjustifiable and assistants; and "all the bread in the bank" is hardly idiomatic, unless one is talking slang where bread may mean money (still uncountable). – Andrew Leach Aug 14 '12 at 22:46
The is used with uncountable nouns like bread all the time. The bread is moldy. Also with generalities. Where did the time go? / It’s for the common good. / The race is not to the swift… / You could cut the sarcasm with a knife. – Jason Orendorff Aug 14 '12 at 22:56
@JasonOrendorff I'm not sure who your comment is aimed at (if anyone!) Of course uncountable/mass/general nouns can be made specific; just like humanity/the humanity. But where the intention is not specific, articles are not appropriate. – Andrew Leach Aug 14 '12 at 23:27
@Andrew, you’re coming across as really hostile. I made that comment because your answer says “don't use an article where the noun is a generality (or maybe, an uncountable noun, like bread)” and I think that’s unclear and can be improved. I don’t want to fight. – Jason Orendorff Aug 14 '12 at 23:48
@JasonOrendorff My apologies; it wasn't my intention to be hostile towards you. Comments tend to be terse and open to that interpretation, which I must guard against. But I had considered (and, I think, still do) that my example of a "generality" immediately followed by an example of a "specific" demonstrating the difference was sufficient. I'm afraid I don't know why it's not. – Andrew Leach Aug 15 '12 at 0:05

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