The The, the Buckeyes, a hero and the future of history

by andybechtel

Along comes word that The History Channel is getting a new name: History. The “H” logo will get a makeover to give it a more contemporary look. The changes are part of an effort to recast the channel’s image so it is no longer seen as the place for World War II documentaries and little else.

“Channel” is unwanted because it apparently signifies old media. The Internet doesn’t want channels. The reason that “the” is gone isn’t explained, but the humble article has a history of being added and deleted on occasion for various purposes.

Back in 1993, the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “The Last Action Hero” became “Last Action Hero” shortly before its release. The thinking in Hollywood was that “the” wasn’t good for marketing the movie. “Last Action Hero” failed to meet box office expectations, however. Perhaps “Titanic” lacked “the” for the same reason; that title served not only as a label for the ship but also as an adjective for the massive production.

If “the” is not good for the movies, perhaps it beneficial in academia. Ohio State University seems to think so because it prefers to be known as The Ohio State University. This is most evident to the rest of America when an NFL lineup is introduced at the start of a game on television. As each player states his name and his college, the former Buckeyes almost always stress this point: “John Doe. Theee Ohio State University.” It does ensure that no one is confused by those other Ohio States.

Finally, there is The The, a British band whose heyday was in the 1980s. More recently, The The’s song “This Is The Day” was used in a candy commercial. (Listen here and see whether the tune sounds familiar.) The group’s name seems to be an inside joke on the naming conventions of rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately, the joke is now on The The, because the name isn’t friendly in the Google age of distinctive search terms.

What all of this back and forth about “the” means for The History Channel is unclear. As the Clash once said, the future is unwritten. Or was that Clash?

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