General Question

Stinley's avatar

Why do we say The Americas or The Middle East but not The Africa or The Asia?

Asked by Stinley (11484points) April 24th, 2015

Quirk of the English language means that we put The in front of some places but not others. Is there a rhyme or reason for this?

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9 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

There are 2 american continents, and “middle east” could mean anything.
“Africa” and “Asia” on the other hand, are unique identifiers.

janbb's avatar

^^ What s/he said.

JLeslie's avatar

In some countries there are not two American continents. In the US we use the 7 continent model, but not all countries do.

We do say the Asian continent. We don’t say The America, but we do say The Americas. We also say The Bronx, but not the Brooklyn. I have a feeling it just is what it is without a good explanation.

Although, maybe most of the English speaking countries use the 7 continent model? I don’t know.

Maybe since the US uses America, putting the The in front of The Americas, helps differentiate America from The Americas. Many years ago, and maybe still in parts of the world, people referred to America as the entire continent. My SIL’s Inlaws always called her The American (In Italian) and she was actually Mexican.

A song I have liked for a long time, Jose Luis Perales sings about “America” but if you listen to the words it seems he is talking most likely about Latin America.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@ragingloli nailed it. Americas and Middle East have “the” in front of them because they are collections. THE continents and THE countries.

Stinley's avatar

I found this article to answer my own question…

JLeslie's avatar

The Middle East is a collection of the continents? I don’t think most people think about the Middle East that way even though obviously it does cover three continents. Three in the Seven continent scenario. It’s a part of each of those continents. The Middle East is more like a geographic area apart from defining it by continents I would think?

Why do Americans only use the term Asians for East Asians?

Some things don’t really make much sense. I used to say people from India were Asian, but I don’t anymore. It’s not understood.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

@JLeslie No, the Middle East is a collection of the countries. That’s why @stanleybmanly said “THE continents and THE countries.” It refers to a region, but that region is defined by the countries in it.

Strauss's avatar

It was not long ago that certain areas of the region known as the “Middle East” were referred to as “the Levant”, and in the early part of the last century, Argentina was often referred to as The Argentine.

And don’t for get the United States of America. As a matter of fact, if you look at the official transcript, you’ll see that the word “united” was originally not capitalized.

ibstubro's avatar

Great link, @Stinley!
Quote from it:
“The Bronx takes its name from the Bronx River, which was itself named for a settler named Jonas Bronck. (It was his river, i.e., Bronck’s.)”
Since that came up.

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