H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
So long ago as 1867, Gould protested against this elision as barbarous and idiotic, and drew up the following reductio ad absurdum:
At last annual meeting of Black Book Society, honorable John Smith took the chair, assisted by reverend John Brown and venerable John White. The office of secretary would have been filled by late John Green, but for his decease, which rendered him ineligible. His place was supplied by inevitable John Black. In the course of the evening eulogiums were pronounced on distinguished John Gray and notorious Joseph Brown. Marked compliment was also paid to able historian Joseph White, discriminating philosopher Joseph Green, and learned professor Joseph Black. But conspicuous speech of the evening was witty Joseph Grays apostrophe to eminent astronomer Jacob Brown, subtle logician Jacob White, etc., etc.36
Richard Grant White, a year or two later, joined the attack in the New York Galaxy, and William Cullen Bryant included the omission of the article in his Index Expurgatorius, but these anathemas were as ineffective as Goulds irony. The more careful American journals, of course, incline to the the, and I note that it is specifically ordained on the Style-sheet of the Century Magazine, but the overwhelming majority of American newspapers get along without it, and I have often noticed its omission on the sign-boards at church entrances.37 In England it is never omitted.38
But such euphemisms as lady-clerk are, after all, much rarer in English than in American usage. The Englishman seldom tries
Note 36. Edwin S. Gould: Good English; New York, 1867, pp. 56-57. [back]
Note 37. Despite the example of Congress, however, the Department of State inserts the the. Vide the Congressional Record, May 4, 1918, p. 6552. But the War Department, the Treasury and the Post office omit it. Vide the Congressional Record, May 11, 1918, p. 6895 and p. 6914 and May 14, p. 7004, respectively. So, it appears, does the White House. Vide the Congressional Record, May 10, 1918, p. 6838. [back]
Note 38. I wrote this in 1918. In 1914 the Society for Pure English had been organized in England, with the Poet Laureate, Dr. Henry Bradley, A. J. Balfour, Edmund Gosse, George Saintsbury, and other eminent purists among its charter members. In October, 1919, it issued its first tractand on page 12 I found Rev., Very Rev. and Rt. Hon. without the the! [back]