Created By: Stratadrake on April 4, 2013 Last Edited By: Stratadrake on June 29, 2013

Spell My Trope With A The

[Administrivia] 'Trope Name' vs. 'The Trope Name'

Name Space:
Page Type:
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.

Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • April 6, 2013

    4. Ease of Use

    It's a lot easier to use a trope name in a sentence if it doesn't start off with the word "The".
  • April 6, 2013
    So this is an Administrivia page, then? Looks pretty good.
  • April 6, 2013
    Although, I personally think "no new trope namers" is the wrong way to interpret Trope Namer Syndrome. I got Fowl Mouthed Parrot through with the Trope Namer of Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir because the trope namer is also descriptive of the trope.
  • April 6, 2013
    ^ I can agree with the sentiment for "no new trope namers". I initially had that as a redirect but we cut it later on because it's so extreme it kinda misses the mark.
  • April 16, 2013
    Number four strikes me as wrong.

    It's easier for me to type The Mook than it is Mook, even though I have the muscle memory to use the {{ }}, which many people may not. Even if I need to omit the "The" from the title for a specific usage, I lose nothing. Yes, I have to use the brackets this time, but it's easier than using them every time.
  • June 26, 2013
    3 is an Example As A Thesis which doesn't hold for anything that doesn't have a Trope Namer.

    4 (descriptiveness) somewhat misses the point, if the point is about definite articles being bad. I think in some cases adding "the" helps make one-word trope names less ambiguous.

    5 isn't a good argument for omitting "the" if the trope name needs it to make a proper sentence (e.g. The Killer Was Left Handed).
  • June 28, 2013
    First off, I would strongly disagree that "The short answer is "Don't". The short answer is "It varies".

    "The" as the lead to a trope name is used quite effectively to indicate a character archetype, especially if there is a direct Trope Namer, and even moreso, if that trope namer has entered common usage to mean that character type (The Pollyanna is the first example that comes to mind; but there's also The Svengali).

    Second, "The" does not require that there be only one of the trope in a work. It does make it slightly more difficult to construct a sentence that includes multiple examples in one go, but only slightly more difficult ("Joe is The Atoner"; "Joe, Jim and Sam all qualify as The Alcoholic.")

    Third: "It's a lot easier to use a trope name in a sentence if it doesn't start with "The"." Not universally true.
  • June 28, 2013
    Thank you for the input, Madrugada. My main concern here is that this is more a YKTTW issue than a wiki issue in general, much like Trope Namer Syndrome is. A lot of "The [Whatever]" type YKTTW's are just bad.
  • June 28, 2013
    We have a trope named Spell My Name With A The. So, this YKTTW should probably get a new name to prevent confusion.
  • June 28, 2013
    EDIT: Nvm.
  • June 29, 2013
    Trope Title "The" Trouble

    ...ok I'll go now.
  • June 29, 2013
    While I'm aware that I snowcloned Spell My Name With An S for this (and quite deliberately), IMO the snowcloning works. Besides, this isn't a 'trope' page per se, it's an essay on wiki behavior so we can be a little more lax about titles.
  • June 29, 2013