In brief, which of the following is correct? Alfred is fighting against a villain known as "The Penguin".

Alfred punched the Penguin in the face.


Alfred punched The Penguin in the face.

The second looks a little odd to me.

  • 1
    Isn't the character known as "Penguin" (like "Batman") rather than "The Penguin"? Feb 5 at 8:56
  • Hmm, you're right! But I claim that the question is about an entirely unrelated character whose name is in fact "The Penguin".
    – Flounderer
    Feb 5 at 9:08
  • I thought two of the other villains were the Joker and the Riddler, who could be called Joker and Riddler to their faces. At the beginning of a sentence they would take a capital T, but a lower case t elsewhere.
    – Henry
    Feb 5 at 9:33
  • 1
    In general, you have to look each one up in a list such as a gazetteer.
    – Phil Sweet
    Feb 5 at 22:04
  • The question is whether "the" is part of the proper name. If it isn't, go with lowercase; if it is, capitalize. As for finding the answer to that question, I would find how the creator of the name wrote their name. For things like comic books where there are multiple creators and authoritative sources, I would go with the most common usage (consider using a corpora). Feb 7 at 2:40

1 Answer 1


Taking a multi-word proper name that invariably includes a definite article, the Yorkshire Ripper, Google results for "that the Yorkshire Ripper" and "was the Yorkshire Ripper" show ratios of

  • 47 : 3 (with 2 extraneous results)


  • 48 : 2 (with again 2 extraneous results)

in favour of lower-case article variant in the first 50 pertinent results.

This is the usual situation, I believe.

Perhaps the situation is less clear with single-word nouns. There aren't many hits in a Google search for "played for the Arsenal" when one removes the attributive ("played for the Arsenal first team / youth team / side of 1983 / ...") usages, but the ratio is down to about 2 : 1 (but insufficient returns to draw accurate conclusions). But a search for "Doctor Who" + "The Master" shows again a large preponderance of the lower-cased version where not sentence-initial.

  • Thanks for your effort! It looks like lower case "the" is the normal usage, but I'll wait and see whether there are any more answers. (aside: I'm sorry to see that this is one of those stacks where people downvote aggressively! I'll probably avoid it in future.)
    – Flounderer
    Feb 6 at 1:04
  • 1
    There's some extremely good info / analysis on the site (though there's often disagreement about finer points too): at least use it as a resource. Possibly the downvote is because you've not included any research ('t/The Atom', 't/The Hulk', 't/The One-Above-All', 't/The Pink Panther', 'the Lord of the Rings' are proper names where the article is usually at least notionally included. Using a search string such as "than the Atom" or "arrested the Pink Panther" cuts out sentence-initial capitalisation of the t. Feb 6 at 11:47

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