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I'm editing a text and came across this sentence:

If that sounds like your cup of tea, head over there to meet the charming Kumamon in person today.

I feel that "the" is used incorrectly, as Kumamon is the name of the mascot--name in the sense of "Bill" or "Robert" is a name. I asked some other people in the office and they felt that there was nothing wrong with "the" because "the" is used in titles such as "The Amazing Randi" (a magician and skeptic.) I argued that the writer of the article means that the bear has a charming personality and that "The Charming Kumamon" is not its title. In other words "...head over there in person to meet Kumamon who is charming." They replied "Right, so there's nothing wrong with using "the" Your sentence is more awkward so it can be cleaned up by shortening to "the charming Kumamon." I disagree. For example, "I was told to talk to the smoking man." it is unclear whether the man is smoking a cigarette or he himself is smoking (as in "on fire.") so it is unclear if the bear is charming people or if the bear is charming. I was told I was being nitpicky and that everyone knows what the meaning is because of the context.

Is the sentence as given above OK for the meaning "Kumamon is a bear who has a charming personality," in that people like him? I think there's something fishy about the construction.

  • It's perfectly fine. It's an idiomatic way to present an epithet. The meaning is "Kumanon the charming [one]". Epithets can evolve to become titles or proper names -- for example Alexander the Great -- but that obviously doesn't always happen. Generally, English puts its modifiers before its nouns, hench the word order. – deadrat Jan 11 '17 at 9:23
  • @deadrat well, I understand epithet but I don't think the author intended that. She's not available to ask. If it were an epithet, shouldn't it be capitalized? – michael_timofeev Jan 11 '17 at 9:34
  • It's an epithet by definition. And no, epithets are not capitalized until they become part of the name. – deadrat Jan 11 '17 at 9:41
  • I disagree that "the smoking man" could mean "a man on fire". Contrast it with "a smoking dish" or "a smoking gun". The definite article seems necessary to refer to a specific and "charming" Kumamon which denotes some difference from "ugly, unattractive, etc." Kumamon. If you contrast "Image of charming Mickey Mouse" and "image of the charming Mickey Mouse", I think the latter sounds more idiomatic. I guess the noun "character" is implied at the end. – user140086 Jan 11 '17 at 9:41
  • @Rathony yeah, I just don't know on this one. I would prefer to say "Kumamon who is charming." – michael_timofeev Jan 11 '17 at 10:08
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This is a perfectly normal idiomatic use of the definite article.

By saying something like "I was introduced to none other than the remarkable Michelle Obama", the definite article emphasises the adjective describing them.

It can be used with any and most descriptive labels - "the infamous Jack the Ripper", "the talented Meryl Streep","the brilliant Stephen Hawking" etc.

  • I'm ok with the examples you gave, but when an "ing" participle is used, I feel something changes. But, I'm not sure, so I'm asking. – michael_timofeev Jan 11 '17 at 11:19
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    @michael_timofeev If the ...ing word is used as an adjective it seems to make no difference e.g. the winning Usain Bolt*, the blundering Joe Bloggs. – WS2 Jan 11 '17 at 11:39

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