Do NOT call him Smokey the Bear!

I have to admit that I’ve been having a tough time finding original ideas lately. I started leafing through my AP Stylebook to find definitions for unusual words, and then I saw something that blew my mind!

Smokey Or Smokey Bear.
Not Smokey the Bear.
But: A smoky room.

Evidently, we’re not allowed to call him Smokey the Bear!

What’s up with that?

It’s always been Smokey the Bear to me. When I was in high school, one of my friends took the screenname “smokeythebear1” to harrass guys in our class. (We were fun.)

I find it astonishing that the AP feels the need to clarify that issue.

I have to warn you again…that I will not be posting tomorrow. Once you hear why, you will surely forgive me based on the sheer awesomeness of what I’m doing.

I’m going to Donnie Wahlberg’s birthday party.

The New Kid on the Block. The one who played the crazy guy at the beginning of The Sixth Sense. The one who burned down that house back in the 90s. Donnie was always the crazy one.

I love living in Boston.

(Let’s hope that his little brother Marky Mark is there! After meeting Vanilla Ice last March, I’m collecting all the early 90s hunks!)


14 responses to “Do NOT call him Smokey the Bear!

  1. I guess we have Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins to thank for the error.

    According to, “Smokey’s correct, full name is Smokey Bear. In the popular song ‘Smokey The Bear’ written in 1952 by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins a “the” was added to his name to keep the song’s rhythm. This small change has caused confusion among Smokey fans ever since.”

    I love that the Smokey Bear site claims sixty years of “vigilance.” I like the idea of Smokey taking the law into his own paws, dismembering and tearing to shreds any potential fire starters passing through a forest of California redwoods.

  2. You need to go out and vandalize some more stuff! that will give you plenty to write about!

  3. I like how you’ve made The Grammar Vandal the new Kate’s Adventures.

  4. This post is yet another example of how futile (and somewhat silly) this blog is. Yes, it’s fun to chuckle at those who know little of or care much about proper grammar. However, I wonder how much of what we consider to be proper grammar would have been considered improper a century ago.

    How can something be incorrect if the majority of people understand what is being said? Grammar is defined by consensus, not by someone at AP, and evolves over time.

  5. To the anon who posted above me, I think, of all the blog posts to choose, you chose the wrong one to make such a comment.

    Mostly because the post has NOTHING to do with grammar. It has to do with a name, which is common used incorrectly, which is a completely legitimate topic to discuss.

    Just because a lot of people call him “Smokey the Bear” does not make that name appropriate. Consensus is irrelevant; his name is Smokey Bear, and referring to him any other way is incorrect. I cannot imagine President Bush being okay with the name “Dubya,” simply because a majority of people refer to him and understand him to be named as such.

    Plus, the only entities receiving criticism from this blog are those of the professional sort, who know that grammar should conform to specific styles, which are developed BY CONSENSUS.

    Far from being an arbitrary definition by some random employee of the Associated Press, the AP style is a reflection of the desire of many news publications (and, by association, professional firms) to write in a style that is consistent and accurate. And as our vocabulary evolves, so does AP style. It provides for inoffensive, concise and clear style, and consistent grammar is part of that formula. All of this is relevant to the publications of the PRESENT, and consideration of how today’s accepted grammar compares with the grammar of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, while interesting, is completely irrelevant.

  6. When we moved to Tennessee from the West coast, I was always bothered by the spelling in “Great Smoky Mountain National Forest.” The AP Stylebook indicates, however, that “smoky” is correct in this instance?

    Speaking of AP style…not everyone agrees with it regarding Web site/website. Most everyone seems to agree that Internet should be capitalized.

  7. Dear dlipkin,
    I am not the anon above, but I think it’s important to note that other languages do use articles in front of proper nouns. For example, if I were to talk about Kate in third person in Spanish, I may refer to her as “la Kate.” In German, I would use “die Kate.” My point is that the lack of articles in front of names is indeed part of the practicality of English syntax.

  8. That makes sense, and, while irrelevant, (no one else here is talking about OTHER languages), is interesting.

    But while the article is left off names in English, it is never added inside names in other languages (meaning one would never say “Smokey la Bear,” which would literally mean Smokey the Bear, which is incorrect; they would use “la Smokey Bear” or “la Smokey” for short).

    Unless you mean to imply that someone, in Spanish, could call me “Derek la Lipkin,” and, by association, Smokey Bear “Smokey la Bear.” That is incorrect. The article would come first, and his name is still Smokey Bear. I think that is a point everyone must accept. The fictitious bear has a real name, and it should be respected just like any other.

  9. I suppose it would be correct to say Smokey the bear if we had other animals with the name “Smokey” to confuse him with:

    Smokey the bear attended the Save the Redwoods event because Smokey the bobcat was ill.

  10. I brought up the comparison to foreign languages to emphasize the relationship between syntax and grammar. The translation of proper nouns is actually a controversial issue in itself. I was merely trying to bring up that English has the beauty of omitting “the” at times that other languages don’t.
    (btw,the masculine form of “the” in Spanish is “el”)

  11. sorry to disagree with alexa, but it’s precisely because this blog has devolved into the new kate’s adventures, as opposed to realizing its promise as an interesting place to talk about language, that it’s become more and more boring to read.

  12. And dlipkin should get a grammar blog, instead, he always has more interesting and thoughtful things to contribute and seems to be the one doing all the work here.

  13. Anonymous (one of you), I’ve studied three of the Romance languages and I’ve never heard anyone use an article with a name, like “la Kate.”

  14. I am fluent in Spanish, and I have had many conversations with people who are also fluent, referring to someone in third person (in absence of the person named) as “la Diana” or “el Miguel,” etc., especially when talking about his or her personality.
    La Kate es detallista.

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