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A sentence on Fox News reads ungrammatical.

Maisy, who bears similarities to loveable pooch Beethoven in the series of comedy films written by John Hughes, had the soft toys removed during an intricate procedure.

Is this a simple grammar error of missing the definite article? Since the dog is specified, I thought the correct sentence should be:

Maisy, who bears similarities to the loveable pooch Beethoven in the series of comedy films written by John Hughes, had the soft toys removed during an intricate procedure.

Am I right?

  • This is actually a correct and idiomatic usage. We do sometimes attach adjectives to proper names. I'll see if I can find a reference to it. – stangdon May 11 '18 at 2:39
  • I am somewhat stumped. Lisa likes David is fine. But Lisa likes the David sounds wrong. (Even though I could understand Lisa likes this David when used in a room full of people named David.) But when an adjective is added, the opposite seems to be the case. Lisa likes the lovely David sounds right. But Lisa likes lovely David sounds wrong. I haven't found a source that says if it's grammatical or not. But I would say that it's at least awkward to have not have an article before an adjective+name construction. – Jason Bassford May 11 '18 at 3:16
  • Perhaps it's because the only time I really hear an adjective+name construction is for something like the honourable Judge Smith presiding, so I'm simply used to the article in that situation and assume it as a rule for every case . . . – Jason Bassford May 11 '18 at 3:19
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There's nothing remotely "ungrammatical" about the cited usage (with or without a leading article). Google Books offers some support for OP's idea that the article "should" be present...

1: [Something was done] by well-known comedian [comedian's name] (320 hits)
2: [Something was done] by the well-known comedian [comedian's name] (1300 hits)

...but you can't take that as implying there's anything wrong with the less common version. It just tells you what form people are most likely to use - which choice I don't think could ever affect the meaning anyway.

It's important to bear in mind that newspapers are primarily written for native speakers. The fact that some of the phrasing they use might be difficult for some learners wouldn't normally be a consideration.

On the other hand, I think it is true that some newspapers sometimes deliberately use relatively "exotic" syntax simply because they know this can have particular appeal for some readers (who perhaps take pride in the fact that they can understand "unusual" usages, and/or admire the linguistic skills of people who get paid to put them in print).

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I think the original is grammatical, although I’d agree that it reads a little bit odd.

I think the key is to rewrite the sentence without the word pooch:

Maisy, who bears similarities to lovable Beethoven...

The problem with that, though, is some people might not realize Beethoven refers to a dog. So perhaps the writer decided to make that clear:

Maisy, who bears similarities to lovable (pooch) Beethoven...

Once the parentheses are removed, you could indeed put the definite article in front of the clause, but I don’t think it’s “incorrect” to leave it out.

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  • I don't think the problem here is pooch but lovable. I added more comments to the original question, but I think that even if dropping the article in front of the adjective is grammatical (I can't find a source either way), it's at least awkward. – Jason Bassford May 11 '18 at 3:23
  • @JasonB - You and I seem to agree that it’s sloppy journalism. – J.R. May 12 '18 at 11:26

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