Why "the Australian Capital Territory" but not "the New South Wales"?

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Why is "the" used in "the Australian Capital Territory", but not before "New South Wales"? Is it as if you started off with "the territory", made "territory" start with a capital letter, and added in "Australian Capital"?

Andrew Grimm

Posted 2013-03-09T06:29:24.433

Reputation: 5 696

2I think so. The Netherlands is the (nether) lands, The Yangtze River is the (Yangtze) river, and so on. Can you think of any counterexamples? – snailplane – 2013-03-09T06:33:56.623

A-ha! This has been discussed on ELU: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/28177/city-names-with-articles There

– snailplane – 2013-03-09T09:27:23.350

There are several questions addressing this on ELU; start with a search there on [articles] [proper-nouns] (the brackets mark these terms as tags). – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-03-09T12:26:59.963

In addition to the general answers, there's a bit of Australian political weirdness at play, too. The mainland territories (Northern Territory, ACT and something called Jervis Bay) are not proper States, though the first two are treated as if they were. There are also the 'Indian Ocean Territories' (basically Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the 'Australian Antarctic Territory', and previously the 'Territory of Papua & New Guinea' that all start with 'the' because the names are more references than proper nouns. – mcalex – 2013-04-30T11:52:52.497

Answers

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According to "The Cambridge Guide of English Language":

The English form of certain placenames has included the word "the", which may or may not still be capitalized. The Dutch city of "The Hague" is one case where the official name includes the definite article, with a capital letter even in mid-sentence. [...] The Dutch kingdom was once "The Netherlands", though the official English form of the name is just "Netherlands", as shown in the United Nations member list (www.un.org). [...]

However, in the light of the uncertainty associated with your problem—e.g., is the word "the" idiomatic in some placename cases?—, the best I can think of is to read the exact placenames-spelling in the Post Office Guide and in the Oxford Atlas gazetteer.

Lastly, if you are precisely looking for the "why" in your particular case, I think you should ask on English Language & Usage.

user114

Posted 2013-03-09T06:29:24.433

Reputation:

2@AndrewGrimm There are several questions addressing this on ELU; start with a search there on [articles] [proper-names] (the brackets mark these terms as tags). – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-03-09T12:16:58.183