Light & Verity

Of "the" we sing

Some time in the '80s, [the] Old Campus lost its definite article. But why?

Michael Sloan

Michael Sloan

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Quick—which of these sounds right? 

“I lived on Old Campus.” 

“I lived on the Old Campus.”

We’ve long observed that some people include the definite article when referring to Yale’s oldest quad, while others don’t. We asked people in the Yale Alumni Facebook group about this question recently, and we found something curious. All the respondents from the Class of 1977 and earlier reported saying “the Old Campus,” and all those from the Class of 1985 and later told us they just say “Old Campus”—a practice that continues among students today. Those in between were split nearly evenly. A look at the Yale Daily News of those years showed a similar evolution over the same period of time. 

What happened to “the”? E-mail us at yam@yale.edu and tell us your theory. And next we’ll sort out the West Campus. Or is it just West Campus?

3 comments

  • Andrew Melnykovych
    Andrew Melnykovych, 1:32pm March 11 2019 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I blame Benno

  • Angus Thuermer
    Angus Thuermer, 4:39pm March 11 2019 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    George Polk Award winners like Melnykovych know how to treat their articles well. Too, if you use Beano, you’ll never have to blame Benno.

  • Pierre Groussac
    Pierre Groussac, 9:40am March 14 2019 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    Dropping the article in this case implies closeness, that the place is no longer just a place, but an experience. That said, the overall decline in the use of the definite article has been noted as a recent trend in languages. I don't think anyone knows why. But then again, does anyone know why we say what we say or do what we do?

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