"THE" Ohio State University

So, a friend and I were watching the Pats game last night and it brought up the question: When players anounce themselves, “Tom Brady, Quarterback, University of Michigan”, when a player went to OSU, it’s always, “Bob Smith, Kicker, THE Ohio State University.” My friend said it has something to do with Ohio University trademarking (or something like that) the word Ohio. That sounds like horse-shit to me.

Anyone know why it is always THE Ohio State University?

Consider the source, from a FAQ about OSU hosted at osu.edu:

Bolding mine.

I admit this doesn’t necessarily answer your question, but it does point out that The Ohio State University was never just “Ohio State University”.

For what it’s worth, I’ve submitted a question to the archivists at OSU’s library regarding this. I’ll respond to this thread when they reply.

Like North Carolina and California, Ohio has numerous state universities united in a state university system. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’d suspect that “The Ohio State University” is the one which has precisely “OSU” as its name, as opposed to the other Ohio state universities (note the lowercase) such as Kent State.

In North Carolina, there are something like 15 state universities. But the University of North Carolina, with no suffix, is understood to be the oldest one, at Chapel Hill, and if you attend the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, at Wilmington, or at Charlotte, you attach the locator, including when acronyming it. Likewise Raleigh has the sole school named North Carolina State University, and it, not Chapel Hill or any of the others, is shortened to “State” in vernacular use. “State plays UNC” is a common sports headline, with the Raleigh school’s team competing against the Chapel Hill school’s team.

Likewise, the “The” applied to OSU is the verbal distinguisher that means “that school among Ohio’s state universities that has the privilege of calling itself ‘Ohio State University,’ as distinguished from the state’s other public universities.”

As a graduate of Ohio University, you might not want to get me started. I could make this a pit-worthy rant.

While your friend’s theory sounds like horseshit… it’s actually pretty close to correct, although I will point out that OSU was calling itself “THE” OSU long before the lawsuits over the use of the word, “Ohio.” Keep in mind that “THE” OSU marching band (The Best Damn Band in the Land, they claim, although I have several bones to pick on that point as well), has a signature/trademark formation thingy they do at every game, where they create the script “Ohio” and the 1st Chair Tuba player gets to make a big deal out of breaking formation to run out and dot the “i”. (And evidently, this is the only college marching band that does script formations instead of the oh-so-proletariat block letters) So, when OU decided to trademark “Ohio,” TOSU got their football-worshipping panties in a big fat wad and sued my alma mater. The bastards. As if dominating football across the state isn’t enough, THEY WANT TO RULE THE WORLD AND OWN ALL THE WORDS FOR IT!!!

Sorry. I’ll take a deep breath.

Truth be known, OU was there first (1804 – 1st university in the Northwest Territory) and OSU just suffers from academic envy. That and they only think they know how to party.

Anyway, the settlement was, IIRC, OU gets to use “Ohio” as our trademark, but OSU gets to do the script Ohio with the band without paying OU a royalty. (Or maybe they do have to pay a royalty – memory is fuzzy on that part.) I believe they use “The” to imply that there is no other school in the state worth mentioning, which obviously chaps my ass and the assess of all the other millions of Ohio state school graduates whose mascot is NOT a useless nut.

Anyway, when people ask me where I went to school, since many, many Floridians are completely unaware that there is more than one state school in Ohio with a football team, I tend to say, “No, Ohio University, THE OTHER Ohio school.” (Which is, of course, met with blank stares unless I’m talking to a former Ohioan who might actually get my joke.)

Bottom line, short answer: Egomaniacal puffery and self-delusion is all that is.

Interestingly enough, other universities also use the “The.” The main sign for Florida State University says “The Florida State University.” Use of the “The” isn’t common however.

As does Penn State. The diploma hanging right over my computer here reads “The Pennsylvania State University.”

My WAG: “The” was added to Ohio State to better distinguish itself from Ohio University in common speech. Think of it this way: Florida State University, but University of Florida. Pennsylvania State University, but University of Pennsylvania. If I’m rattling off a list of universities, any listener would have no trouble distinguishing Florida State from Florida, Penn State from Penn. But: Ohio State University, Ohio University. So, Ohio State added a stressed “The,” as if to say, “listen carefully here.”

It sounds like it might be a holdover from the time when it was more common. Especially with high schools, older documents almost always style them as “The X High School”, rather than just “X High School”.

Interestingly, if you turn it around and use the “University Of X” construction, you have to have the “the”. It’s just one of those quirky points of syntax.

Dogzilla, from another distinguished university in Ohio, writes:
*Keep in mind that “THE” OSU marching band (The Best Damn Band in the Land, they claim, although I have several bones to pick on that point as well), has a signature/trademark formation thingy they do at every game, where they create the script “Ohio” and the 1st Chair Tuba player gets to make a big deal out of breaking formation to run out and dot the “i”. *

Gosh! It’s unusual, if not unique, for a university band to proudly proclaim its own damnation! I had no idea… :eek: Even the ASU Sun Devil Band doesn’t do that.

This is not an uncommon usage.

A quick run-through of the college listing in the World Almanac gives these examples:

The Art Institute of Colorado
The Art Institute of Phoenix
The Catholic University of America
The Citadel
The College of New Jersey
The College of New Rochelle
The College of William and Mary
The College of Wooster
The Colorado College
The Culinary Institute of America
The Evergreen State College
The George Washington University
The Illinois Institute of Art
The Master’s College and Seminary
The Pennsylvania State University
The Union Institute
The University of Akron
The University of Alabama
The University of Findley
The University of Iowa
The University of Memphis
The University of Montana
The University of North Carolina
The University of Scranton
The University of Tampa
The University of Tennessee
The University of Texas
The University of West Alabama
I probably missed a couple, too.

In fact, I always thought it was The Massachusetts Institutive of Technology, but that’s not how it’s listed.

True, but Chris Simms (for example) will likely say, “Chris Simms, University of Texas” (or maybe “University of Texas at Austin” if he’s feeling pedantic) if he’s ever taped for a starting lineup bit on Monday Night Football.

This is (IME) by far the dominant practice, whether the complete name of the school contains a leading “the” or not. Ohio State’s insistence on using “the” when most similarly-named institutions do not is notably unusual.

I suppose a lot of the answers given here have some influence, but in the end it has nothing to do with trademarks or with Ohio University and it’s not very rare. O.S.U. is far more well known than O.U. is. They don’t have any reason to try to distinguish their name. The answer is just plain pomposity. Of course, most people don’t use the “The” in regular conversation. It doesn’t make any sense. And Ohio’s newspapers also don’t do it.

Actually, when my brother was at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s, he told me that at that time, Michigan was also insisting on the capitalized “The.”

For what it’s worth, the staff at The Ohio State University Archives have responded:

Extracting the motive of the trustees from that is more problematic, but it looks like the best factual (cough, cough) answer to this question is “Because they wanted it that way.”

That leads to the question of “Why did they want it that way?” Without more information, the answer to that is “Because they did.”


I am sure you will be happy to hear this. OSU is not the only band to spell out words in script. The Clemson University band spells out “tigers” in script at their football games. Someone that is being honored usually dots the i. They always call it the “traditional script,” but I have no idea how long they have been doing it.

So next time some prideful OSU fan tells you that, you can correct them.

Interesting enough I work with a lot of The Ohio State University grads. Of the, oh, 10 of us in my section, I’m the only one that’s not (and we’re located in Michigan where there aren’t a lot of Ohio people proportionally speaking). Usually I hear the “THE” emphasized by people who are not OSU grads when referring to OSU, kind of cheeky in other words. The OSU grads themselves just say “Ohio State University.”

As does the University of Iowa. When I went there it was The State University of Iowa but apparently the “State” has been dropped.

As a student of *The * Ohio State Univerity, let me chime in.

Actually I don’t have much to add, but students here either make fun of it or are actually quite proud of it. For example, I’ve seen people (freshman especially, it seems) write in their AIM profiles and away messages that they go to THE Ohio State University, always emphasizing the The and never just saying OSU. Then again, I’ve also had conversations like-

**person you’re chatting up: ** “So, where do you go to school?”
**OSU student: ** “I go to Ohio State University.”
other OSU student: “You mean *The * Ohio State University” snicker and roll eyes

That kind of thing. Oh, and Dogzilla, my sister went to OU and I went to orientation with her (Summer 1999). Some current students did these comedy sketches for us, and one had a girl writing a letter home to her dad. She said, “Thanks for not sending me to that other Ohio School!” :slight_smile:

There’s a popular bumper sticker in northern Indiana; “Purdue–THE Indiana University.” It’s a dig at Indiana University and a joke on OSU’s “THE.”

In Oklahoma, we never think of any Ohio school when OSU or OU are mentioned. :rolleyes:

Instead, we proudly identify with land robbing cheaters! :dubious:

:stuck_out_tongue: Go Sooners!

I wonder what The New York Times Style Book says about this! :slight_smile:

There is certainly pomposity involved when former players say it when introducing themselves. However, I rarely read THE Ohio State University in The Columbus Dispatch or any other newspaper for that matter, and THE is rarely said in any other Columbus media outlets. It seems to be an odd pompous formality and a point of pride used only by players and some others in the school. Personally, I find the use of THE a little annoying. I know what Ohio State University is, and THE really isn’t needed.

IMHO, Ohio University students and grads tend to take the liberal use of an article a little to seriously.