Friends, Enemies, Readers of The Flying News wherever you may be, for too long now a little noticed, but very grave, practice has been disfiguring our public life. To what do I refer? Well, let me tell you the story of how I came to be aware of this menace to civilization. As Heraclitus said, Πάντα ῥεῖ, which is to say that—Excuse me for this awkward transition—Relief for an Overburdened Article:
A and an work together admirably well. A takes care of the words that begin with consonants, an handles all the rest. They get along great, and even go to the bar together to have a drink after work. But the is a different story. It has to handle every word it gets, and be definite at the same time. It’s really too much to ask from one article, and the has really been feeling it—complaining, even sometimes failing to show up when it’s needed.
Back in the old days, se, seo, and þæt worked together superbly as the definite article team.1 But when the took over, it got rid of all those old articles, and tried to run the whole show itself. But no longer. The has gone from self-confident to grouchy. After all these years, it—the, that is—has acknowledged its mistake, and is not going to go it alone any more. After an extensive search process, thun has been recruited to share the work with the. From now on, the will only have to get involved with words that have more than one vowel. Thun has vowed to take care of all the other words. It’s still too soon, of course, to know how the relationship is going to work out. The fact remains that the is not easy to get along with. But those who care about the well-being of the small, but very important, words we call articles will keep their fingers crossed, hoping that this new arrangement works out. If not, we may find ourselves in big trouble, since inside sources say that the is about ready to quit for good.