An acquaintance of mine who was born in Long Island has taken to putting the definite article "the" in front of nouns when he speaks. For example "I love the Google" or "In NYC I met the boyfriend" (referring to his own boyfriend) Even though this is common in romance languages, is it proper English or an affectation?
Cockneys are anything but pretentious but will refer to 'the wife',( or 'the missus', or 'the dear duchess'), the mother-in-law, etc. And plenty of other people do that in Britain, a lot of them with layers of irony.
Often people when they are discussing somebody may interject 'I know the father/ mother/boy-friend' i.e. the father/mother/boy-friend of the person under discussion. Sometimes it comes across in a patronising way, but I wouldn't call it pretentious.
Having said that the sort of examples you quote do sound a bit pretentious. But can you not pull this chap's leg by asking him where he bought 'the shoes', or if he enjoyed 'the breakfast'?
I think Mitch is correct that it may not be standard English, but I don't think there is anything technically wrong with it. If the scope of the noun is understood from context or implication, I can't see why using "the" to replace a singular possessive is wrong in those specific examples.
Both of the following sentences will lead you to the same conclusion.
- "The Google is awesome."
- "Google is awesome."
The following will not.
- "The lawn is so green."
- "My lawn is so green."
Um, which lawn?
If I put on my student hat and remember correctly, there is something called x-bar theory which postulates that all English words have a determiner, but that the determiner (e.g., the article) may be omitted. They are called bare nouns (and the missing articles called zero articles). I'll try to pull up some sources and examples when I get home.
I don't think there is a fixed rule other than convention, which is as good as a rule for me. Below is my attempt at a personal codification, though.
You cannot (or should not) use "the" as an article if...
- There is no context that elucidates its use.
- You are referring to a person. The Mojave Desert is fine (and correct), The Tom Riddle is not.
- The object of the sentence is plural or contested (e.g., "I have five dogs. My favorite is the dog").
- You don't have to.
You can only (but still probably shouldn't) use "the" as an article if...
- The "the" is understood to be synonymous with the possessive it's replacing.
If his sentence caused you to pause and think, "wait, which boyfriend?" then I think there'd be a case.
To your overarching question, though, your friend may be a bit pretentious. He definitely is if he just started doing this in response to hearing someone else say it and thinking it was nifty, edgy, or a means to differentiate himself. You can tell him I said so.
And I'm rambling.
Edited to organize.