Three little letters: t – h – e. One small word: THE. I capitalize it here because although we think of it as not so much of a much, I’ve found that it can be very, very important.
Case in point: A woman in a group I regularly meet with recently reminded us all not to ask Mrs. So-and-So to take on any new responsibilities for a time; “Her plate is full with planning for her daughter’s wedding,” we were told. Quickly, we were all talking about “THE” wedding, as if it was the only wedding in the world (which of course it is to Mrs. So-and-So, at least for now – and to all of us who have worked with her in our group, even if we know we aren’t close enough friends to be on her guest list).
When I thought about that, I realized we all have had some capital-letter THE events in our own lives. How many times have you and I and everyone else begged off from new tasks because of THE wedding, or maybe THE graduation, or possibly THE upcoming family reunion? Sometimes that little word even changes its pronunciation: When a Kardashian or equivalent public person gets married, “thuh” wedding may be called “THEE’ wedding of the year! (Do read this paragraph aloud, and notice how you pronounce the “thuhs” and possible ‘THEEs” in it!)
For me, noticing things like this is a fun part of working with the (pronounced here as ‘thuh’) English language. But for people who have to learn it as a second language, English is the (pronounced here as ‘THEE’) hardest thing in the (once again, demoted in pronunciation to ‘thuh’) world. It’s the emphasis we put upon it that differentiates a “thuh” the from a “THEE” the and tells our listeners about importance.
And you don’t have to be talking about a Kardashian wedding to have your own THEE events. If you follow a religion, there’s bound to be THEE baptism, THEE bar mitzvah, THEE first communion, THEE confirmation. If you’re family is large enough, you’ll have a multitude of THEEs over a lifetime, because there are always repetitions of such important events. And even if you’re not, you’ll be planning THEE vacation you’ve always wanted to take, or recommending THEE best book you’ve ever read, or shopping for THEE perfect dress for some special occasion — maybe even for Mrs. So-and So’s daughter’s wedding!
How about letting me know what they were – or are – or will be? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll report on them here at some time in thuh future!