30 January 2013

So... is it The Beatles, or the Beatles ?

Apparently that is a matter of some contention, as exemplified by the Wikipedia editors' discussion of the topic, some excerpts of which are below, via Harper's:
They were “The” Beatles not “Beatles,” like “The” Kinks. “The” Who, not the “Who.”

It is standard practice when determining usage to allow those whose logo it is to make such determinations. If The Beatles capitalize the “T,” then a capital T it is.

I have a MA in Modern English Language and am a former proofreader and copy editor and current music editor for Amazon.com. In my professional work we never capitalize the “the” in band names, never ever.

Never mind articles or websites. Just take a look at Ringo’s bass drum. At least HE knew what their name was!

From the band’s album covers, it’s not obvious that they considered the word “The” an essential part of their name. Note that the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band shows the band name as “BEATLES.”

This whole nonissue is a bunch of hairsplitting. While a few folks fastidiously change “the” to “The” when the word “Beatles” follows, REGARDLESS OF THE CONTEXT OR HOW MANY TIMES THE NAME HAS ALREADY BEEN MENTIONED AND/OR CAPITALIZED, this is not done with any other band. This is time- and space-wasting, not to mention a bit hypocritical.

Did someone ask for an expert in British English? I have had nineteen years in publishing and editing, and I have to agree with my American colleague above. And if the copy editors who worked on books are wrong, and if the Amazon.com editor is wrong, and if I am wrong, then why even seek the opinions of professionals here? Among professionals, it does appear the lowercase usage outnumbers the capitalized one; it is only among amateurs that the professional usage is slammed! So let the pros be wrong. In which case Ringo Starr’s site, which uses lowercase, must also be wrong. George doesn’t seem to mention it. John Lennon’s people must be wrong on their official site. Brian Epstein’s site is wrong. Only Paul McCartney capitalizes.
FWIW, Wikipedia does not capitalize "the."


  1. Then again, the band's Twitter account (it's verified!) is @thebeatles.

  2. The Beatles, Beatles, who really cares? They're still awesome.

  3. No one cares, MusicLover, except editors like me who are trying to find the right way to write it!

  4. "copy editor" is one word ;-)

    1. "Never mind the serial comma. If you want to see a group of copyeditors go toe to toe, ask them whether copyedit is one word or two. Chances are you’ll get two very strong opinions, neither side allowing that the other might have a reasonable argument. This particular issue has been discussed several times in the pages of the Copyediting newsletter. When the newsletter went from being Copy Editor to Copyediting in the October–November 2007 issue, then-editor Wendi Nichols decided to go with the one-word spelling rather than the two. She made her argument for it (subscribers can read it here) and gave space to those who favored leaving it as two words through the voice of Bill Walsh (subscribers can read it here). No matter which side of the argument you stand on, however, there’s a relevant point that we’re ignoring in our battle to be “right”: two words becoming one word is a natural, if messy, process. Writes Bryan Garner in Modern American Usage, “The normal process in modern English is for separate words used habitually to become hyphenated, then fused into a single word (e.g., to day became to-day in the 19th century and then today in the 20th).” Language evolves. Even copyeditors, correcting all their peeves to their hearts’ content, can’t stop language change any more than we can stop the ocean tide coming in..."

      More discussion at Copyediting -


    2. Call me old fashioned but the English Oxford dictionary doesn't list copyedit as a word, but does list copy edit or copy-edit. Even in this reply the word copyedit comes up as red underlined. But the other two don't. They are two separate words and it's just laziness putting them together. Add the space or the hyphen in already!

  5. When cataloguing my music I list the groups as "Beachboys," "Beatles," or "Who." It would never occur to me to list them as "The Beachboys," "The Beatles," or "The Who" even though when speaking of them I might say their names either way. However, "Who" sounds strange without the "the." After all, you wouldn't say "Gladys Knight and Pips."

  6. What about The The? Or is it the The?

  7. see http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/the-beatles/biography

  8. "I have a MA in Modern English Language" It's an MA, a masters. If it starts with a vowel SOUND, then it's "an"


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