Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Definite (Confusion) Articles

The other week I was in the desert when I noticed once again how self-centered man as a general species is (or at least, English speaking man is). For a fleeting moment, I had cell phone service, and I received a message from a friend asking me if I wanted to grab a beer with him that night. "Can't, sorry" I replied, "I'm in the desert." 

Or tried to reply. I didn't have enough service to actually send a message. Even if I had, I realized how frustrating for my friend that would have been. Naturally, his next question would have been "Which desert?" Then I realized that English speakers have a serious problem when it comes to describing their location. It's always "the spot." 

"I'm in the desert."
"I'm at the beach."
"I'm in the mountains!"
"Can't talk now, I'm at the movies" (all of them!)

It's as if being someplace immediately transforms it into "the" place. Look back at the first sentence; I did it there!

Normally I'm a stickler for precision in speech, but I don't have a solution this time. Instead, I'd like to propose that every time you fill in this Mad Libs sentence - "I'm ______ (preposition) 'the' ________ (location)" - you take a moment to ponder how non-unique you are. Hopefully, it will make you a more thoughtful, compassionate person. 

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