Why does my brain put an article before IHOP
June 12, 2014 12:50 PM   Subscribe

The fate of the world depends on finding an answer to this question: Which is more grammatically correct -- I'll meet you at IHOP or I'll meet you at the IHOP? If grammar has no opinion, what is the most common formulation?

posted by angrycat to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In my experience IHOP is treated as the name of the restaurant, not an abbreviation, so it would be "I'll meet you at IHOP."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:53 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've always just heard people say IHOP, no "the," for what it's worth. The International House of Pancakes sounds sensible to me but I wouldn't say the IHOP.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:55 PM on June 12, 2014

Best answer: Weeellll. Let's think this one out.

IHOP Stands for International House of Pancakes. So would you typiclaly say, "I'll meet you at International House of Pancakes", or would you say, "I'll meet you at the International House of Pancakes?" In this case adding the seems to inherently be more grammatically correct. Since you're technically differentiating between the French House of Pancakes or the Original Pancake House, or the Danish House of Pancakes.

Now, would you then say," I'll meet you at the Cracker Barrell", or "I'll meet you at Cracker Barrel?" In this case, the the seems superfluous.

Next discussion, old people adding 's' to Wal-Mart(s) and K-Mart(s).
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:55 PM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If it were Applebee's, or McDonalds, or Chez Panisse, what would you say? I think either way is correct. Using "the" is just a little more specific and implies that there is only one IHOP around.

If there were three IHOPs in your city, you might say "I'll meet you at the IHOP on Maple Bacon Blvd.", because there's room for confusion about which one you might mean. Or, if one of those IHOPs are right by work or your house or wherever you are, you could say "the IHOP" and I think the exact location would be implied.

If there's only one in town, you could say either "IHOP" or "the IHOP".

In other words, using "the" means that you're talking about a specific IHOP.
posted by natteringnabob at 12:59 PM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think it's a regional thing to use "the" before a store name, just like it's a regional thing to use "the" before highway numbers. Would you normally say "We met at Waffle House" or "We met at the Waffle House"? I don't think IHOP should be a special case.
posted by bleep at 1:00 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

My son, several years ago, named his favorite resturant "the ihopper". It stuck.

You all have my permission to use ihopper...
posted by pearlybob at 1:04 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It is a regional thing to say "the [store name]" ... I'm not sure how far the regionalism extends, but it's extremely common in Chicago and you sometimes see jokes about it.

Ditto, natteringnabob, for the "making a store name possessive" -- common Chicagoism.

If I were writing it I would say, "I was shopping at Jewel" but if I was speaking I would totally say, "I was shopping at the Jewel ..." "I was shopping at Jewel's" ... Sometimes I have to look up store names because I'm not sure if it's really "Lowe's" or if it's actually "Lowe" and I just mentally turn it into "Lowe's." (It's actually Lowe's.)

Either one sounds grammatically okay to me but "at IHOP" rather than "at the IHOP" definitely sounds weird to my ears and I'd definitely say "at the IHOP" but it is a dominant regionalism here so I am not trustworthy. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:05 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think your question stems from the acronym/initialism - IHOP is sort of both, but more of an acronym, so I don't think you need the "the."
posted by umwhat at 1:10 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You don't say "the NASA" but you would say "the National Aeronautics and Space Administration".

So you don't say "the IHOP" unless you're saying "the IHOP on Second and Main" or whatever.
posted by Sleeper at 1:13 PM on June 12, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Both are correct.

Since there are many many IHOPs, "the IHOP" to me implies "the [local] IHOP" or "the IHOP [we always go to over on 8th Street]"
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:13 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]

(I checked this by looking on the Google.)
posted by Sleeper at 1:15 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Before the corporation changed the name to simply IHOP, it was called The International House of Pancakes. So, in this case, I think you're perfectly fine with or without "The".
posted by Thorzdad at 1:20 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is a bit of a special case since the original name was The International House of Pancakes, incorporating the article. This doesn't apply to most fast food chains, e.g. McDonald's, Burger King, etc., not to mention other fast-casual types such as Denny's -- or even Waffle House. (I'm actually struggling to remember any other chains that used an article.)
On preview, jinx.

I think this may depend on how much you internally think of "IHOP" as "The International House of Pancakes". In any event, it really doesn't seem to be an issue of comprehension, which would be the only rationale for enforcing a rule. Descriptivism, ho!
posted by dhartung at 1:21 PM on June 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think either way is correct, especially if there is only one in the area. If there are two, for example one that you always go to and another one 40 minutes away, then I would personally say "the IHOP" vs "the IHOP that's 40 minutes away".
posted by ethidda at 1:30 PM on June 12, 2014

I had to think about this one.

In my opinion, either is correct. IHOP is the name of a chain restaurant. "the IHOP" refers to a specific IHOP.

If I was speaking to someone who lived in my town, I would say, "Let's meet for breakfast at IHOP at 9:00 AM," because unless that person is a newcomer to town, they probably know where the specific IHOP is in my town.

If I were speaking to someone from out of town, I might say, "Let's meet for breakfast at the IHOP in Westminster at 9:00 AM. It's on Meadow Creek Drive in the same plaza as Walgreen's." Here, I need to very specifically reference the IHOP in my town, as opposed to another IHOP location that may or may not be more convenient to the person I'm meeting. So why not "the Walgreen's?" Well, it's in the same plaza, so there's no need to be specific.

I would probably do the same for any chain restaurant. If it's a one-location restaurant, I wouldn't use "the," even when speaking to someone from out of town, and I'd give the location.

I think this is probably personal preference, and how I got used to speaking by listening to family, friends, co-workers, et cetera over the years.
posted by tckma at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whether or not a given proper noun takes the definite article is completely arbitrary in English. Just ask the Netherlands, or -- if you're more of a Queen's English speaker -- the Argentine. This is absolutely devlish for non native speakers, that you have to memorize a list of proper nouns that you have to say 'the' in front of.

Your brain has decided IHOP is more like the Netherlands than it's like Canada. Fine by me.
posted by chrchr at 1:40 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Either is correct. What my husband says is not correct is what I was raised to say in St. Louis, "the pancake house." I wonder whether anyone else says that.
posted by limeonaire at 1:59 PM on June 12, 2014

AP, and I believe the Chicago Manual of Style, recommends dropping the "the" when using an initialism or acronym.
posted by lunalaguna at 2:01 PM on June 12, 2014

Both are grammatical, and all you're going to get is a random sampling of people's impression of their dialects (people are not great at it).

Given that, I think I'd say "I'll meet you at IHOP" but in the context of "Should we meet at IHOP or Starbucks?" I'd possibly say "I'll meet you at the IHOP".

("Let's meet at IHOP on the corner of Street and Avenue" is ungrammatical, though.)
posted by jeather at 2:26 PM on June 12, 2014

The company's own commercials refer to it as IHOP, not The IHOP. Since Metafilter usually advocates referring to folks however they prefer to have themselves referred to, I'd take that as the authoritative source.
posted by Longtime Listener at 2:26 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Unless you were referring to a specific IHOP (the IHOP par excellance), I don't think you would use the word "the." The acronym itself has become the entire name of the thing (which the restaurant itself has adopted, by the way), and referring to it as "the IHOP" because it's "The International House of Pancakes" would be to make just part of the name into an acronym while retaining the first word separately, which seems odd and not what was probably intended. As mentioned above, just like we treat the acronym NASA.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2014

It's pretty common to put articles in front of store/restaurant names, especially with chains. I find myself doing it when I'm going to a store that's not my "usual": if I'm going to my neighborhood Rite Aid, I'll say "I'm at Rite Aid," but if I'm in another neighborhood, I'll say "I'm over by Main Street, at the Rite Aid." "The" serves as a sort of location marker, as shorthand for "this particular location of a chain store." I would not use "the" for something with only one location.

See also the Pizza Hut, the Taco Bell, the Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. (On Jamaica Avenue.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:57 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would say "I'll meet you at eye-hop", but "I'll meet you at the International House Of Pancakes." So I'm guessing that your tendency to say "the IHOP" comes from the fact that the restaurant was once known as the International House Of Pancakes.

Also, not sure where you're from originally, but IME Southerners tend to add the definite article to certain common chains. The Woolworths, The Walmart, The Waffle House, The Rite Aid, The Burger King, etc. Not all Southerners, obviously, and curiously, only certain chains sound right with a definite article, to my ear. See also the tendency to add the possessive "s" to chains that aren't named after a person.
posted by Sara C. at 3:25 PM on June 12, 2014

I agree that it's a regional thing about the "the." When I lived in Nola people would refer to, say, "the Walmart" instead of "Walmart" (referring to a store and not just the company in general, of course).
posted by radioamy at 3:36 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Of course, the IHOP as long as it's a specific location which we both know. No article then yes, we'll meet at IHOP but the dialog must continue as we determine which location we're talking about, then it becomes the IHOP.
posted by Rash at 3:38 PM on June 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for flocking to my aid. The force has again triumphed over the dark side.
posted by angrycat at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2014

You get 12,500 Google hits for meet you at IHOP and you get 78,600 Google hits for meet you at the IHOP.

Which surprises me, because I have a strong preference for the former. (Not that I think it's correct and the other formulation isn't; it's just what I would likely use, and which sounds more natural to me.)
posted by layceepee at 5:05 PM on June 12, 2014

I say "meet me at the IHOP," but if I am asking someone to meet me at a location of the (far superior) Original Pancake House, I would say "meet me at the OP." What's more, "IHOP" is pronounced "eye-hop" but "the OP" is pronounced "the oh-pee." In conclusion, English is a swarming morass of darkness and contradiction.
posted by escabeche at 5:10 PM on June 12, 2014

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