What's Thee Deal?
November 9, 2005 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Why do so many "Gentlemen's Clubs" use the word "Thee" instead of "The?"

In my travels in the Southern U.S. I've noticed a number of topless bars with names like "Thee Dollhouse," "Thee Diamond Club," etc. Up here in the NE they don't seem to do that. What's the deal with the word "Thee" and why is it apparently restricted to the South? Friends in the area seemed to think it was some kind of legal thing but why should how you spell "the" matter? Is it a legal thing? Is it an attempt to make the places seem more "classy?" Or is there some other answer?
posted by Opposite George to Writing & Language (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is it a joking reference to EE (a giant bra cup size?)
posted by Miko at 5:24 PM on November 9, 2005


Can you be more specific than "Southern US"? I don't recall any strip joints in Atlanta with 'thee'. Then again, I mostly hung out in The Oasis.

btw, hi Cinnamon!
posted by mischief at 5:27 PM on November 9, 2005


It's a Bible Belt reference to Genesis P. Orridge.
posted by Rothko at 5:30 PM on November 9, 2005


Can you be more specific than "Southern US"?

I've seen this usage in thee Carolinas and Florida.
posted by Opposite George at 5:33 PM on November 9, 2005


It's actually a reference to Billy Childish, Alex. C'mon, you should know that.

I would guess, if I were going for the obvious, it's because it a) gives a patina of Olde Respectibility to the establishments ("Gentlemen's Clubs"), and b) because The Playhouse is a chain, and Thee Playhouse may think that's enough of a change to avoid litigation.
posted by klangklangston at 6:08 PM on November 9, 2005


They're classy joints, donchaknow.
posted by piro at 6:59 PM on November 9, 2005


Because otherwise they'd have to call it Ye Olde Titty Bar, and that probably wouldn't sell as well.
posted by spilon at 7:14 PM on November 9, 2005


Of course it's an attempt to sound classy, but... "thee" isn't an article. It's a second-person pronoun, if I'm not mistaken.
posted by squidlarkin at 7:17 PM on November 9, 2005


spilon, shouldn't that be Ye Olde Tittye Barre? :)

And squidlarkin, that's what confuses me, too. I just sent an email to the management of "Thee World Famous Dollhouse (tm)" to see what they have to say. I'm hoping for an enlightening reply.
posted by Opposite George at 7:25 PM on November 9, 2005


I've been all over the South and never seen this. Are the strip clubs at interstate exits a chain ("We Bare All")?
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:52 PM on November 9, 2005


I've seen that. Maybe even here in Fayettenam, can't recall. Either here or Pensacola.
posted by konolia at 8:18 PM on November 9, 2005


And squidlarkin, that's what confuses me, too. I just sent an email to the management of "Thee World Famous Dollhouse (tm)" to see what they have to say. I'm hoping for an enlightening reply.

You have got to post it if they send you anything. Also, summaries of any relevant phone calls.
posted by rkent at 8:20 PM on November 9, 2005


Just checked the yellow pages, and there's a regular bar (not a topless club) with the "thee" in the name. Hm.
posted by konolia at 8:21 PM on November 9, 2005


Thee Dollhouse seems to be a chain which began in FL. There's a USPTO registration for the trademark claiming first use in commerce as 1977 (another name, Thee A-Team, has a similar claim but has been abandoned).

I suspect that any gentlemen's clubs using "Thee" are trying to trade on the goodwill generated by Thee Dollhouse, and Thee (even misused) is too common a word to make a cease & desist stick.

On the other hand, Dollhouse is certainly a trademarkable word (i.e. in "nightclub services"), although it appears it did not, in fact, have a related mark. There were a few "doll house" marks at the time, though. Regardless, when he started the nightclub there could easily have been a "The Dollhouse" nightclub which had an unregistered mark with common-law rights that the lawyers for "Thee Dollhouse" decided they wished to avoid.

Just a theory.
posted by dhartung at 8:33 PM on November 9, 2005


Some more puzzle pieces: Looking at this, (possibly includes NSFW banner ads) there seem to be a bunch of places called "Thee Dollhouse" or "Thee Doll House" and at least some of them appear to be related. But, there's also "Thee Playhouse," "Thee Diamond Club," "Thee Southern Belle" and "Thee Platinum Club" (not as classy as Thee Diamond Club but ahead of Thee Potte Metalle Clubbe?)

Another thing: A few posts ago I told the American people this phenomenon was restricted to the South. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. The link above points to two places in my locale (East Haven, CT and NY, NY) and another couple in the midwest (Chicago and West Des Moines).

Plus stripclubdirectory.com yields clubs with names of the form "The < classy/sexy joint name>" in all states with a "Thee" club, though not so many in SC. So the legal restrictions hypothesis isn't looking so good, unless it's something at thee subbe-state level. Konolia, you're in NC, right (going off the zip in your profile)? Are there any regular bars in that area with just "The" in their name?

Thee big bra joke/classye jointe theories seem strong. Still, for some reason something feels wrong about them. As squidlarkin pointed out, "thee" is a pronoun -- are these places really going after THAT STUPID a clientele? Maybe grammar isn't the first thing on the patrons' minds (as hard as that is to believe :) )

I'm also liking dhartung's theory.*

As a red-blooded American man who likes girls, cars and baseball, I'm embarrassed by how little I know about topless bars.

*but it is JUST A THEORY (pdf link)
posted by Opposite George at 9:15 PM on November 9, 2005


are these places really going after THAT STUPID a clientele?

That's a rhetorical question, right?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:30 AM on November 10, 2005


Alright well I'm in NC (Asheville) and the only strip club that I know of here is XXXCapades (once humorously mistaken for an ice skating rink by a friend). I'm also aware of Dockside Dolls near Chapel Hill. The only "Thee" club that I've seen is a "Thee Dollhouse" in Raleigh, and I didn't even know it was spelled that way until I looked it up just now.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:03 AM on November 10, 2005


Previous "thee X" thread (focuses on bands, but has a comment about strip clubs).
posted by languagehat at 6:31 AM on November 10, 2005


Oh, and:

"thee" isn't an article. It's a second-person pronoun

That's a different "thee." This is a misspelled article.
posted by languagehat at 6:33 AM on November 10, 2005


I'm also aware of Dockside Dolls near Chapel Hill

That place always sounded like a transvestite strip club to me, where you'd go watch burly longshoremen set down their tiaras, slowly take off their evening dresses, and bump'n'grind around as Gilbert and Sullivan played in the background.

A man can dream, can't he?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 AM on November 10, 2005


Rothko: It's a Bible Belt reference to Genesis P. Orridge.

Oh my god that was very, very funny! :) :) :)
posted by gen at 8:11 AM on November 10, 2005


It's a Bible Belt reference to Genesis P. Orridge.

Can someone explain the joke to this non-Bible Belt resident?
posted by luneray at 9:28 AM on November 10, 2005


I live in the Bible Belt and don't get it, except for some reference to porridge, and yet even still flies high over ;-P
posted by vanoakenfold at 9:57 AM on November 10, 2005


Well, I got an answer from the webmaster of Thee Southern Belle in Charleston, SC:

Thanks for contacting us and though I'm the webmaster and not the club owner I think I can answer this question. "Thee" comes from the old English that was brought to this country by the settlers and the South being as stubborn as we are held on to much of the old English for many years and as you can tell still do to some degree. I have noticed after 40+ years and a native of South Carolina that you find a lot of the old English especially "Thee" used by businesses that like to promote the fact that they are either located in a historic district or are proud of their counties southern heritage. Just one of those things we can't seem to let go of I guess.

So according to him Thee Southern Belle is using "thee" to present itself as an establishment proud of local history and tradition.

This use certainly doesn't appear to be limited to topless bars: yellowpages.com (thanks for the idea, konolia!) pulls up 269 listings for all sorts of businesses with "thee" in their name. I just eyeballed it but most of them use "thee" as an article and they're located all over the country. Topless clubs seem to be overrepresented, as do churches and religious bookstores. If I wasn't so lazy I'd count it all up and do a summary.

My favorite: Thee Insurance Shoppe agency in Wheaton, IL

So, barring a new revelation from the other clubs it looks like the "classe thee jointe uppe" theory wins and my friends from the Carolinas were wrong. In defense of my pals, there are some pretty idiosyncratic liquor laws in NC and SC, so I can understand why that confusion may have come up.

Thanks all for all your help and if I get any more answers from the clubs I'll post them here.
posted by Opposite George at 11:09 AM on November 10, 2005


"Thee" comes from the old English that was brought to this country by the settlers

Sigh.
posted by languagehat at 11:56 AM on November 10, 2005


ROU_Xenophobe: Yeah, the name always struck me as odd too, but mostly because it's 3 hours to the coast, so they're not exactly "dockside." At any rate they've been closed for renovations for about a year now, and I'm starting to worry about all those out of work strippers. Wherever will they go? (Besides community college)
posted by Who_Am_I at 12:04 PM on November 10, 2005


Somehow, I always thought the Florida 'Thees' were going for a phonetic representation of that long-E empatic 'the,' e.g. The Dollhouse, meaning the finest, most notorious, whatever: not just any old dollhouse. Reminds me of my favorite seen while driving through Florida phonetic business name, a little corner mom-n-pop with a big sign reading "STO."
posted by ellanea at 3:09 PM on November 10, 2005


ellanea, good hypothesis.

I also just read something here suggesting that bands did it to ensure their albums would be filed under "T." Possibly the Thee Dollhouse is worried its clientele won't look under "D" in the phone book so it's employing a variation on the "AAAAA" trick used by locksmiths and towing services?
posted by Opposite George at 4:05 PM on November 10, 2005


(Oh, and I am totally stealing that "STO" story!)
posted by Opposite George at 4:06 PM on November 10, 2005


And a prize goes to ellanea! Here's an email from Thee DollHouse:

Michael J. Peter, who started the chain, named the first club Thee DollHouse, as in "the one and only" DollHouse. He had the name trademarked and actually had a patent on the original logo. As time went on, and as he opened more clubs, the chain became known as Thee DollHouses of America. The first club opened in Orlando, Florida in September 1976.

Duke Dearing
Director of Operations


This is pretty close to what dhartung found through a USPTO search.

So it looks like "thee's" intended meaning might vary with who's saying "thee," though I'd feel better about the "olde tyme spellinge" theory if Thee Southern Belle's reply had come from management.

Thee Diamond Club didn't have any obvious working email addresses, but they do have this nifty bulletin board thingy, which yielded a novel hypothesis from a forum participant named Scuba:

I do have one proposal for where this practice of using Thee originated. I would like to ask the owners to please excuse me if I am wrong. They may just like it that way, but I do have an idea. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet tells Ophelia, "Get thee to a nunnery". This was said while Hamlet was trying to get Ophelia to live a life of celibacy. Many scholars believe that Shakespeare's use of the word nunnery had little to do with convents and nuns living a life of celibacy. In Elizabethan English, nunnery was slang for brothel. So, I think the use of "thee" in this double entendre has spilled over to today's world. Again, this is just my opinion. I haven't officially read where anyone has attributed the use of Thee in the name of a club to Shakespeare.

Uh, right.
posted by Opposite George at 6:46 PM on November 10, 2005


Good Lord, this is sadder than I thought.
posted by Miko at 8:06 AM on December 11, 2005


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