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Mama Deb
mamadeb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
To the prom or to prom?

This is driving me nuts - when did this change?

When I was in high school (class of 1981), no one went "to prom" or took someone "to prom". It was always "the prom." You don't take someone to movies, or to restaurant, or to school dance, or even go to senior breakfast.

But in the last two or three years, that's what I'm hearing. Oh, people still say "the prom" as part of the prepositional phrase, but I'm hearing the phrase without the article a lot lately - I'm thinking about last night's Without a Trace, but also Grey's Anatomy last year. Or was it two years ago? Whatever - the one with the prom in the hospital.

When did people start dropping the "the" when it comes to the prom?

Okay. From what I've gathered, it's mostly a regionalism that may have been made more general by the movie Pretty in Pink.

Comments
(no subject) - (Anonymous)

The context puts "prom" as a noun, not a verb in this case, so I don't know.

I do know that "prom" comes from "promenade", but I'm not sure that high school students would.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)   Expand  

My Sr. Prom was 13 years ago and we said "to prom" or "to the prom" (mostly the former). It might also be a regional thing, and not just a generational thing. (My prom was in Baltimore, MD, if that makes a difference)

It might. I went to school in New Jersey, which is close geographically but not linguistically, so far as I can tell.

But I'm also thinking about tv and movies from when I was that age. I'd have noticed "Come with me to prom." I think. Because it sounds odd now, and if it didn't sound odd then, it wouldn't sound odd now. Or something.

The big change here is that there *is* a prom. When I graduated (class of 1981 - hey!), we had a senior dance but not a prom.

Ah. Yes.

"Proms" have been American things since at least - huh - since the late 19th C, according to some sources, but they didn't begin to reach today's levels until the thirties.

See, this makes sense to me. It was a hugely popular movie, and such things will change speech patterns, if it wasn't a regionalism already.

I'm pretty sure it's a regional thing. I went to "the prom" in New York.

Pretty in Pink is in Illinois, and they go "to prom." Carrie is in Maine and they go to "the prom."

I had never heard it without the article until PiP and that's when I think I started hearing it depended what area of the country you were from. It probably depends on whoever writes the script or who the actors are.

Carrie was published in 1975 or so, which makes a difference.

I think PiP made a regionalism more general, but it might have taken a few years.

I graduated in '86, and as I recall, even in the KC area back then it was 'to prom', for the most part.

Another check in the "regionalism" box.

I went to prom in 1985, and as you can see: I went to prom. *g*

Where was that?

Huh. I'm pretty sure I went to *the* prom, in Massachusetts, in 1997. Silly regionalisms. ;^)

Yep. :) Hmm. Northeast thing, maybe?

I have been wondering about this, too. It makes sense if it's a regional and/or generational thing, since I'm in PA and we said "to the prom" in 1983. "To prom" looks weird and very, very young to me.

Northeast again, and you're prePiP, so...huh.

Well, I graduated in '73 and it was "to the prom" then.

But I have notice a shift to drop "the" in a few cases and I'm starting to do in some situations.

Like some of my Aussie friends don't say "to the university" or "to the hospital". It's "to university" or "to hospital" and I've started to pick it up in writing if not that much in speech.

I find the Britishism charming, but if USans do it, affected.

Which probably says things about me. :)

I'm gonna side with tod_hollykim on this one, because my first response to your post was that "the prom" is not the only (nor, indeed, the first) place I'e seen people dropping the "the".

Further, being pre-PiP since I graduated high school in 1970 (in Queens, NY), the dropping of the definite article kind of makes me cringe a bit, although I'm getting used to seeing and hearing it.

The missing definite article may have escaped to another usage. More and more, I hear people using it to refer to roads or highways. Younger people are saying, for example, "Take *the* I-95 north." This seems to have started on the West Coast, but since that's where Hollywood is, it's gaining currency rapidly because of how often people hear it in movies and on TV.

There's definitely a generational pattern to this usage, too. On the West Coast, people 50 or so and younger do if fairly consistently. On the East Coast, it seems to be mostly those <30.

YMMV. Feel free to enlighten me if so, but that's the pattern I've noticed.