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If a proper noun includes the word "the" and we want to refer to it using the definite article, should "the" appear twice in succession? For example:

"Can you pass me The Who CD?" vs. "can you pass me the The Who CD?"

"The US Government passed The Hague Act" vs. "The US Government passed the The Hague Act?". (this example inspired by a comment to this answer).

To me the first versions seem incorrect, but the second versions sound very awkward.

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  • 1
    This might actually become more interesting if The Ohio State University is granted their trademark on the word "The" in a university name.
    – Barmar
    Sep 3 '19 at 14:59
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    the the is never used. Allow me to be categorical, I ain't scared. ( I know an quixotic mouse will come out of the woodwork but I am a fine feline.)
    – Lambie
    Sep 3 '19 at 15:15
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    Possible duplicate of "The the" next to each other (ie see the "The the" thread). Sep 3 '19 at 15:43
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I provided a long answer to the question "Capitalisation in texts where the title is also a concept that is referred to within the text?" a while ago.

Part of my answer to that question is directly relevant to this one.

In the following quotation, The Boss is a nickname commonly used for the singer Bruce Springsteen.

Sometimes what sounds natural can supersede what is technically correct from a syntactical point of view.

For example:

✔ Those are the Gucci shoes I was talking about.

Here, we have a proper noun acting to modify a common noun.

But while the next sentence follows the same syntactical rule, it doesn't look right:

? That is the The Boss ticket I was talking about.

Even though the second article is not actually an article per se (it's part of a name), it's not possible to look at the duplication and think it's appropriate. If something is technically correct, but is still incredibly awkward, it's better to rephrase it.

In this case, we could omit one or the other word (knowing the meaning would be understood anyway) or we could actually restructure the sentence so it's not awkward to start with:

✔ That is the ticket to The Boss I was talking about.
✔ That is the The Boss ticket I was talking about.
✔ That is the The Boss ticket I was talking about.

In the last two sentences, we know perfectly well which words should be capitalized—it's just that we're choosing to omit one or the other for the sake of comprehension. (And which we omit would be a matter of style or personal choice.)

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    It could get even worse if the CD were by The The. They caused quite a lot of problems in the library management software I was working on at the time. Sep 3 '19 at 10:19
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    The The The -- no, no! That That Band name is Silly, even sillier than that of the The Who (who are on first without doubt) is obvious. Sep 3 '19 at 13:27
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    @PeterA.Schneider or as they're known in Yorkshire, "T'T'" Sep 3 '19 at 13:35
  • Can you provide a source for this other than what you think is appropriate? Sep 3 '19 at 13:54
  • Jason is right, come on. This is baby stuff. The is never ever "the the" in English texts.
    – Lambie
    Sep 3 '19 at 15:16
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In speech, you'll never add an extra article and might even elide the one in the proper name. "Where's the Who CD?" and even "Where's that Who CD?", "Where's my Who CD?".

In writing, with quotes (or bold or italic) to indicate that the second article is part of a title, you might. It looks rather odd. Nobody will complain if you don't, unless it creates ambiguity (and I cannot think of an example of that -- any takers?). You might re-phrase to avoid awkwardness. "The performance by The Who ...", not "The The Who performance ..." or "The Who performance ...".

Now, somebody is doubtless going to refer me to a lawsuit between two rock bands that were once one rock band, now known as "What?" and "The What" ... lawyers have to be very careful what they write ....

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There's probably some exception somewhere, but no, native English users do not use the word "the" twice in a row in a sentence.

Remember human languages aren't computer programming languages. They may tend into patterns of use that we call "rules", but they in no way shape or form are slaved to those rules. The rules were made up post-facto by humans trying to understand and/or explain how English works.

So the answer is that English speakers don't like to say the same word twice in a row, so they generally don't. If that conflicts with some "rule" people think exists for English, that's the rule's problem.

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