Wikipedia: the history of a name

Here is a bit from a comment I left on David Weinberger’s blog the
other day, after I had mentioned that Wikipedia takes no article and JD
had commented that, according to the [last item in the
Miscellaneous] FAQ, both “Wikipedia” and “the Wikipedia” were acceptable uses. I realize, on rereading what I wrote, that I nevertheless managed to fit the phrase “the Wikipedia” a few dozen times into my post. Except for those special-cases, I never concatenate the two words, honest.

“The English Wikipedia” may be the preferred colloquial usage, and “the wiki ‘pedia
may amuse the mind and roll off of the tongue, but “the Wikipedia” is
rarely correct in any sentence, and never when referring to the
Wikipedia project as a whole, with the proper noun as the object of the article.

The FAQ answer you linked to above has hardly been copyedited since the silver-tongued Stephen Gilbert placed it into the Wikipedia Overview FAQ
v.1 in 2002, at which time the Wikipedia community had yet to rule out
the idea of being “the” wiki encyclopedia, justifying the name rather
than claiming it.

truth is, other wiki ‘pedias may appear; since the original question
was posed, the community has reached consensus, in the minds of the
Wikipedia phalanges and in the Wikipedia articles you read today, on the article-free name.

circle of articulate digerati who have recently preferred the “the
Wikipedia” to the “Wikipedia” option, however, highlight the urgency of
the struggle for nomenclatural justice.

I have updated the Wikipedia FAQ
to clarify and rectify the reality of the matter, and trust that the
“the” the Wikipedia-loving fans of the aforementioned circle have grown
accustomed to, will in the near future fade into the recesses of the

Firstly, if you read closely the answer in the FAQ link above (which is
how it stood before I updated that answer), it is clear that the
authors of that answer were a bit confused by how to identify the
object of a definite article.

Secondly, I’ve clarified that answer now to reflect current community consensus; at least I can stem confusion from one source.

Nevertheless, it is true that there are a dwindling number of Wikipedians who still say “the Wikipedia”, thinking of it as the Wiki
encyclopedia.  And this is an interesting etymology.  Yet if
WP ever becames one of many such projects, perhaps a neutral wide-net
encyclopedia in a sea of tightly-knit, opinionated community
encyclopedias, it would be silly for it to then change its name.
Moreover, if Wikipedia just means an encyclopedia using a wiki, anyone
could come along and create “the Minnesota Militia Wikipedia”, which
would irk me, personally.  So I have a private vested interest in
nipping that one in the bud.

I’d be a grammar nazi with your organization’s
name, too… if your style-convention pages were publicly
editable.  Just leave me your docs URL in a comment.  ^ ^

Log in