Spell My Trope With A The
[Administrivia] 'Trope Name' vs. 'The Trope Name'
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(permanent link) added: 2013-04-04 08:42:12 sponsor: Stratadrake (last reply: 2013-06-29 07:10:59)

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No Launching Please, this is an essay about wiki culture and those should not be taken lightly. Help with the writeup (especially forming a conclusion) will be much appreciated.


When it comes to naming tropes, should it be "The [Trope Name]" or simply "[Trope Name]"? In other words, is it okay to Spell My Trope With A "The"?

Well . . . it varies. If you've taken a few hours (or more) to browse the wiki you've probably noticed we have a history of both, so it can get a little confusing (to newbies especially) trying to draw the line between when it is and is not okay to do this.

The following points, while not an actual 'policy' (we have the Naming a Trope page for that) are talking points to consider on the issue.

Just to be clear, note that this is a discussion solely about trope names following the "The [X]" format -- e.g. "The [Event]", "The [Character]", "The [Adjective]", etc. Tropes whose name forms a grammatically complete sentence (e.g. The Killer Was Left-Handed) that just happens to start with a "the" are exempt from this matter.

1 - Beware of Trope-Namer Syndrome!

In practice, most trope proposals (i.e. YKTTW's) whose titles start with a "The" are simply the user wanting to name a trope after their favorite example of it. While we do love our trope namers, Sturgeon's Law (unfortunately) applies and most of these proposals just don't pan out. Naming a trope after an example of itself runs contrary to point number one of Clear, Concise, Witty (and is an actual rule for Naming a Trope), because a lot of people just won't get the reference.

2 - There Can Only Be One "The"

There's a funny thing about the word "the": You can only use it in reference to one thing at a time. Note that there will (usually) only be one The Hero, one The Dragon serving the (one) Big Bad, one The Mole sent to infiltrate the hero's True Companions, or so on. If you have two characters who are equal parts The Hero, can you point at both of them and say "Alice and Bob are The Hero"? (A Grammar Nazi will arrest you for that; Alice and Bob are the heroes, plural.)

3 - Does that word mean what you think it means?

How descriptive is the title when taken on its own merits? Sure, everyone knows what we mean when we say "hero", but when we say "dragon", do we mean it literally or metaphorically? That's a pretty important distinction to have down. Even when the word you're using is an established term for something, it may have other meanings that can confuse newcomers to the wiki. (Be especially wary if the word has opposing definitions.)

4 - Does that Trope Namer mean what you think it means?

Apply the above point specifically to trope names based on a character (e.g. "The Alice" or "The Bob") and you run into this: How well-known (outside of yourself, that is) is that character? And are they really that synonymous with just one trope? A character may have dozens (if not hundreds) of tropes associated with them at various points, so you can't just pick one and declare it will be the thing we remember them for.

4 - Linking to articles without a "the"

On the one hand, it's often easier to work trope names into a sentence if the trope name doesn't include an article ("the"), because if we use it in a context that requires a different article (like "a" or "his"), we don't have to remove it manually (which requires piped link syntax, aka pothole). E.g. "The Big Bad sent out his {{Mooks}}" versus "The Big Bad sent out his [[{{TheMooks}} Mooks]]".

5 - Linking to articles with a "the"

On the other hand...

Our wiki parser is trained to automatically convert any instance of CamelCase into a clickable link. (We call them Wiki Words.) This is the preferred way to link between articles, but it only works on two or more words at a time, leaving pages with one-word titles (like "Pirate") out in the cold because it just doesn't have CamelCase to begin with. (Don't try to fake camelcase either -- this will confuse the parser when it creates the link, and you'll end up with "Pira Te" instead of "Pirate".)[[note]] Which could be a good name for a scurvy pirate captain, but moving on.[[/note]]) For these names, every time you want to link them you need {{curly braces}} for the parser to spot it. This is not a problem, but it's just not as quick or easy as linking via Wiki Word.

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