Here’s what one of the characters says in s14e16 of The Simpsons:

For astronomers like me this is a bigger problem even than I don't know, say, getting a date which is difficult for the geeky people.

Why is there a definite article before geeky people?

  • Do you have a source better than this one I found? It would help to know who is speaking, and to whom. – Tyler James Young Jan 16 '14 at 20:23
  • @TylerJamesYoung: Unfortunately, I don’t. It’s Professor Frink speaking to kids. – Danylo Mysak Jan 16 '14 at 20:50
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    That's who I thought it might be. That's basically just how he talks. From that Wikipedia page: "His manner of speech, including the impulsive shouting of nonsensical words, has become his trademark." It all makes more sense if you're familiar with Jerry Lewis. – Tyler James Young Jan 16 '14 at 21:35
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about intentionally quirky character dialogue that does not represent a feature of the English language such as would be useful to ELL. – Tyler James Young May 1 '14 at 16:43
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    @TylerJamesYoung: Teach the controversy. The fact that it's intentionally quirky character dialogue doesn't mean either that ELLs won't encounter it and have to decode it, nor that there's nothing to analyze. It's actually an interesting question, what makes it quirky. – Codeswitcher May 2 '14 at 1:36

Using a definite article is specifying and emphasizing the noun following it; articles are adjectives. He is specifying that getting a date is difficult for "the geeky people" when compared to the other kinds of people. Leaving the definite article out removes that implied comparison.

"Getting a date is difficult for the geeky people." (as opposed to the other people, so it's difficult for these people simply because they're geeky)

"Getting a date is difficult for geeky people." (simple statement regardless of any others)

Reference: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/540/01/

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Either way, geeky people and the geeky people mean basically the same thing.

The existence of the article the makes the phrase basically, people who are geeky.

Without the article, it would sound a tiny bit less polite: "geeky people." Which sounds less polite: geeky people, or people who are geeky?

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  • Why the existence of the makes it equivalent to people who are geeky? – Danylo Mysak Jan 18 '14 at 7:44
  • By putting the word people first, it makes it less obtrusive or offensive by emphasizing that they are people who happen to be geeky, not geeky first and then people. It's a subtle difference that shows up in political correctness discussions, like for persons with disabilities. We don't say a disabled person, we say a person with a disability to emphasize the personhood. – Wally Jan 18 '14 at 12:27
  • Okay, but why the geeky people is the same as people who are geeky? It’s still geeky first and then people. – Danylo Mysak Jan 19 '14 at 13:55
  • Perhaps it's because when you use a definite article right before a word, such as the geeky people, it is describing a particular group of geeks, not just a generic geeky person. It's a subtle difference, and neither way is wrong. – Wally Jan 20 '14 at 12:56

In instances where an adjective is used as a noun to refer to a category (usually of people) it is normal to place the definite article in front.

Life is easy for 'the rich'. (for rich people)

Things are intolerable for 'the poor'. (poor people)

It is easy for 'the incentivised' to feel motivated.

'The blind', 'the halt', and 'the lame', are central to the message of Christianity.

It will not be difficult for 'the educated' to make their own way in life. (educated people)

Are you getting the hang of it?

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    But it's not like the poor or the rich. Here, geeky modifies the following head noun people. – snailplane Jan 16 '14 at 23:14

Perhaps the writer did this because he wants to make it specific to the reader or he is talking about a specific category. The zero article makes the sentence more general to the listener or reader.

I think that if you want to use the zero article, the sentence might look like this:

For astronomers like me this is a bigger problem even than I don't know, say, getting a date which is difficult for people.

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