Exceptions and Irregular Usages can Cloud General Rules
- Basically, the rules are quite clear – the Red Cross is an unusual case as it is a nickname that now looks more like a name that would fit the newer approaches below (where 'the' is avoided). The organization is still referred to as a 'society' and 'the' comes from that memory as well as 'committee' in its formal name.
The regular usage for entities is to refer to the entity with a 'the'
The cases where 'the' is not used:
- a proper name stands alone without an entity type within it:
- However, if the proper name refers to what is known to be a group, team or association it will revert to the regular use of 'the'
('the' Giants (football or baseball team), 'the' Rolling Stones, 'the Masons' ... also helped by being plural names)
- a small set of entity types where even if the entity type is in the title, 'the' is not used e.g., City, Street, Park, Universities
oddly, museums and buildings generally get different treatment than streets
if an 'of' syntax is used 'the' re-emerges i.e. he attends 'the' University of Washington' vs he attends Washington University
Acronyms: Acronyms will follow the use of "the" of the underlying words UNLESS the Acronym became so common in usage as a proper name in itself that the underlying alternation was lost.
Nicknames: Shorthand names will follow the use of 'the' of the full alliteration traditionally used ('the Fed' most commonly refers to actions of the Federal Reserve Board' - a group of people, and to a lesser extent the "Federal Reserve Bank") 'the' Red Cross gets its use of the article from its history as a 'society', its use of 'committee' in its formal name and its continued internal referrals within to its regional 'societies' or subsidiary 'societies'
The Evolution/History of use with proper names?
I would contend, that the ability for a proper name to stand alone without an entity type is a relatively modern change and that 'the' was nearly always used with all corporations and organizations.
Older literature will refer to 'the' Ford Motor Company, or 'the General Motors company, or 'the' Standard Oil company'. We would still refer to 'the' South Sea Company as it never made the transition.
100 years ago the limited liability corporations with a perpetual life beyond the individuals that created them were still a relatively new structure... it took some major changes in law in the 1920s for the full nature to change and of course, our language will tend to tradition.
Eventually, new conventions formed and 'incorporated' IBM inc. etc was perhaps a transition.
Business literature has accepted a standard of omitting 'the' when referring to publicly traded companies regardless of whether an entity type like company or bank is used in the formal name. "Apple Inc." or "Ford Motor Company" both without 'the' ... "Bank of America" or "Citibank" both without 'the'.
Charities: I would argue that the 'exceptions' in the OP question where 'the' is omitted
- purposefully followed the modern convention of corporations
all omitted a normal entity name from their formal name
(Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders / Medicines Sans Frontieres, Greenpeace)
Also carefully self refer not as a 'club' or group or use 'the' in referring to themselves internally "Doctors" in is plural very easily .. could have gotten a 'the' without what I would call a very deliberate effort in their marketing.
no forced convention to treat all charities the same has developed as has been the case with corporations.
I might argue moving to the same uniform standard that applies to corporations has not yet happened because a fair number of the charities still consider themselves as 'clubs' with 'members' (and even things far from 'clubs' like NPR and museums often retain 'member' designation for donors or subscribers). Some Associations truly want to emphasize that they do NOT have a life of their own but are immediately re-portable to their members .. perhaps the AMA and ABA and certain niche trade associations.
All that is left, is to take remaining names and see IF any that do not use 'the' fit firmly into one of the few situations.
The Red Cross maintains the definite article from its roots as a society and its longer official name, including 'committee' as well as not repudiating the use of 'the' internally. If a new charity were formed called "Red Cross" alone, it would not get a 'the' treatment .. if it were called "Red Cross Organization" it probably would get a 'the' as charities have not been forced to a standard without 'the'.
I have already discussed that both "Amnesty International" and "Doctors without Borders" actively chose the modern convention used by corporations in self referal as well as leaving an entity type out from their name.
NATO – is an odd one in that any "alliance" or non-corporate group with an entity name within it gets a 'the'. I believe NATO is irregular in that the "North Atlantic Treaty Organization" is obscured "NATO" is more like Ford or Amazon - it was early in that use I believe but the WWI ANAZAC was treated similarly... even though that C in there is for 'corps' there was an 'ANAZAC Corps' which would have been redundant.
UNICEF – while it does occasionally use the full alteration including 'Fund' in some internal references the acronym is particularly branded as a name in itself. While that might be a bit 'grey' to some, it is aided that it also is not thought of as a club or group of people like the NAACP is (and National Association of Color People still might be in mind). While UNICEF is a well-known charity I think most would struggle to think of the title ... even an hour later after re-reading it ... it is simply more like "Unicef", not a U.N.I.C.E.F. unlike 'the' FBI where people know it's short for something and would give at least an "Oh, yeah" to Federal Bureau of Investigation.
I believe I have covered most and could address and add others.
I do think that all of the names that avoid "the" are exceptionally proper names and those that retain a 'the' with what seems to fit the proper name rule are modern nicknames for 'societies' that retain the longer formal name or tradition.