8

If I were writing a postcard home from a sunny city, I would normally put the adjective just before the proper noun like "sunny Berlin". What should I do when it's The Hague?

  • 1
    It’s the sunny Hague. Trying to say sunny The Hague is ungrammatical because it violates the NP ordering requirements. – tchrist Jun 5 '14 at 19:12
  • 3
    Greetings from sunny 's-Gravenhage. – John Lawler Jun 5 '14 at 19:34
  • Apart from ordering rules, based on the reason why it's called The Hague, no meaning is lost by removing the article – kolossus Jun 5 '14 at 20:01
  • @JohnLawler Unassimilated articles of course don’t count, as even the hoi polloi from the La Mancha region predicting the next El Niño event can tell you. But the last album from The Beatles was not *the The Beatles album they last published, nor is the city council in The Hague somehow *the The Hague city council, nor is the opening to The Stranger something one could call *the The Stranger opening. Doubling the article sounds . . . inarticulate. – tchrist Jun 5 '14 at 20:11
  • just say "sunny Amsterdam". Close enough! – Oldcat Jun 5 '14 at 22:33
2

It is all very nice that sunny The Hague gets violent comments and down-votes from the seemingly inflexible prescriptive crowd, but the fact of the matter is that proper names are not always to be treated as just any other word.

For those that think that The Hague should be parsed as the Hague, think again. I somehow wonder if you also think of Las Vegas as las Vegas, and send postcards from las sunny Vegas?

If you want to convey you are spending your holiday on some sunny plains, that would make perfect sense, but the city is Las Vegas, with the article being a part of the name.

Since Den Haag seems too hard to pronounce, it has been translated to The Hague, which is fine. But no Dutchman will associate hague normally with the city - the The or Den is an non-removeable part of the name.

It may be noteworthy though slightly off-topic that den is not an nominative either - it is an inflected article with a locative meaning. A better English translation of the name would be At The Hague.

Now, assuming that the locals would have some idea on how to use their city names, I can tell you that in Dutch, one would send a card from zonnig Den Haag. Splitting up Den and Haag is simply inconceivable, and makes as much sense to a Dutchman as splitting up New and York.

Actually, in Dutch we do tend to be sticklers for keeping the article with the proper name in some cases. One of the leading quality newspapers, De Volkskrant, published their style guide ages ago, indicating very clearly that the full title of that style guide was:

Het De Volkskrant Stijlboek.

Which would roughly translate to "The The People's Paper Style Guide".

Now, as for The sunny Hague, I would read it as if you were camping near some bushes, and it is nice weather. Feel free to use that form if you think the recipients of the card understand it better than sunny The Hague, but unless you send postcards from New sunny York as well, it will be seen as strange by people that actually know the city and understand it's actual name.

In the end, I will respect anyone's free choice in this, but I resent the vehement telling-off of people that respect the integrity of geographical names - especially because splitting the name up only seems to happen in random cases, because the "splitter" confuses part of the proper name with the nominative definite article...

Greetings from The sunny Hague!
Greetings from New sunny York!
Saludos desde Las soleadas Vegas!
Greetings from Los sunny Angeles!

I won't forbid anyone to write those things on a holiday post card, but please don't put down the ones that don't :)


And actually, this whole discussion is moot as chances are you will never use sunny and The Hague in the same sentence...

  • From your perspective, speaking as a native Dutch speaker referring to Den Haag in Dutch, your comments make perfect sense. The crux of the problem regarding how to treat the place name in English is that English speakers are using not its native form, but a translated one; also, the English conventions when appending adjectives to place names containing an article are not the same as the Dutch ones. My feeling is that the translated place name is in effect a loanword, and is therefore subject to all the processes and transformations that loanwords are customarily susceptible to. – Erik Kowal Jun 6 '14 at 8:14
  • Which is why I included Los Angeles and New York. Also, I do not condemn the use of the sunny Hague - I just point out that not everyone will receive that as incredible literate, there will be people for whom that constructions sounds off. Just like there are those that will flinch at sunny The Hague. Yet both are defensible, and only a hard-core prescriptivist with a limited set of holy rules will call either wrong. – oerkelens Jun 6 '14 at 9:05
  • 2
    "Greetings from sunny the Bronx" (a place name from an English-speaking country) sounds just as bad as "greetings from sunny the Hague". Are we supposed to treat "the Bronx" and "the Hague" differently just because one is in the U.S. and the other is in the Netherlands? And if we start complaining about rearranging the order of proper names in other languages, should we demand that the French stop using "les Etats-Unis" because we don't say "the States-United" in English? – Peter Shor Jun 6 '14 at 10:19
  • @PeterShor - The Bronx and The Hague are not formed in the same way, even if they look the same. And I am not telling anyone to do anything - name any place whatever you feel like! I am mainly advocating to stop telling people that they are not allowed to do that. the name is The Hague, by the way. The The is not simply and added article - well, you can see it that way, and treat it how you want. But anyone who calls it Hague sounds to a Dutchman like someone calling the Big Apple York to an American. That doesn't mean that should stop you - I would not care what a Dutchman thinks of me. – oerkelens Jun 6 '14 at 10:35
  • @oerkelens I'm in The Hague right now and it's sunny. ;-) – Eoin Dubsky Jun 6 '14 at 11:55
0

Consider:

Greeting from the Hague. Its sunny here today.

  • 1
    The trouble is "The Hague" is the name of the city, like "Los Angeles" in California. – Eoin Dubsky Jun 6 '14 at 7:36
-1

I would say that, since "The Hague" is the proper name, the proper form is "sunny The Hague". Since you're dealing with a name (a proper noun), "The" isn't treated exactly the same as the definite article would normally be treated.

  • 1
    No, this is wrong. It works like in book titles and such. You cannot violate the mandatory NP ordering rules. “I haven’t read The Stranger, have you? Have you read Hawthorne’ House of Seven Gables? Flatirons High School’s production is the best Man of La Mancha we’ve seen in years.” In all those cases, you cannot mess with article placement in the NP, even if it is part of the title. – tchrist Jun 5 '14 at 19:11
  • 3
    Interesting. I would certainly have said "Have you read Hawthorne's The House of Seven Gables?" I don't see why that is wrong. – Matt Gutting Jun 5 '14 at 19:25
  • 2
    @tchrist I for one hate those godawful The. Their music is terrible. ;-) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 5 '14 at 19:32
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    It's "The House of the Seven Gables". Surely you don't drop all definite articles? – Oldcat Jun 5 '14 at 22:41
  • @tchrist: adjusting to local naming conventions, and respecting the locative article an integral part of a proper name may be considered style-choices, but calling them wrong is narrow-mindedly prescriptivist. – oerkelens Jun 6 '14 at 7:53
-1

The answer is "Greetings from a sunny Hague".

  • And greetings to you, from sunny Angeles :) – oerkelens Jun 6 '14 at 7:51

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