It upsets Sheldon when you play with the food...It upsets Sheldon when you play with the Sheldon. First sentence I kinda can justify the, second one - just don't get it.

(The big bang theory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCK6ZwpNICQ)

  • 6
    It's used for comedic effect. While correct grammar prohibits the before a person's name; by using the Sheldon is given the status of an object, a robot. It has the added advantage of being a symmetrical callback to the last line.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 10:21
  • Possible duplicate of Why do some people prefix people's names with "the"? Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 6:50
  • @AmEspeaker - Whenever that usage is applied, the pronunciation of "the" is always "thee." In the example video, "the" is pronounced as it is normally pronounced, which indicates that it isn't being used in that sense but rather to reduce "Sheldon" to that of an inanimate object like "the food," which is what the "the" before Sheldon calls back to. To be clear, the standard-pronunciation "the" coming before "Sheldon" is being used humorously as an insult, to reduce him to being an object, not as praise to raise him up like a "the" pronounced "thee" before his name would. Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 16:51

2 Answers 2


It's just a jokey continuation of the conversation. Prior to this there are several instances where they say, "It upsets Sheldon when you play with the X."

It also jokingly insinuates that there is only one 'Sheldon' in the world and at the same time dehumanises him somewhat.

  • I'm giving this an upvote because it is the correct answer, albeit I have a quibble with the contention that the usage of a standard-pronunciation "the," as opposed to a "the" pronounced like "thee," insinuates there is only one Sheldon. That quibble is why I haven't given this an upvote until now, because I don't think that's insinuated at all, but in lieu of any other right answer and in light of a blatantly wrong one below, I'm going ahead and upvoting this. Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 17:38

'the' is known as the definite article (as opposed to the indefinite 'a' or 'an') and implies that something is special, important, significant or one of a kind. You can't go to an Eiffel Tower, but you can go to the Eiffel tower. Often in speech we misuse this article in order to imply that something is more important than it is. 'the Sheldon' is probably mocking Sheldon's self-important perspective of himself.

It's also a rhetorical technique known as parallelism, to emphasise the place value of the word as an object in the sentence.

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    The definite article does not in any way imply that something special, important or one of a kind. It only implies that the thing you’re talking about is expected to be familiar and recognisable by the listener in the scope of the current conversation. For example, in your last sentence, you use it no less than three times (“the place value” [whatever exactly that is], “the word”, and “the sentence”), none of which denote things that are special, important, or one of a kind. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 17:13
  • To Oksana: no worries, glad it helped. @JanusBahsJacquet you're absolutely correct (in certain contexts, including this), but that level of detail isn't really necessary for a question like this - the asker is interested in an aberration in normal speech patterns, not detailed grammatical laws. Saying that 'the' means something specific (i.e. special) is as good as saying that it defines it as familiar/recognisable/ specific. Thanks for pointing it out, but I don't think any amendment is called for. Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 8:28
  • @JanusBahsJacquet in other contexts, you get constructions like 'the one and only', which more clearly demonstrates how 'the' makes something special. He was the one. Worship a god, I'll worship the God. It's not common, but when 'the' is used out of place - such as the Sheldon, it can imply uniqueness. Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 8:35

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