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Stop Calling It 'The' Puget Sound

caption: Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop.
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Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop.
Flickr Photo/Ryan Manuel (CC BY NC 2.0)/

When someone claiming to be a Seattleite tells you not to carry an umbrella, don’t listen. Umbrellas are practical, and they prevent you from getting wet. Carry an umbrella.

But do listen when they say it’s Pike Place Market (not, cringe, Pike’s Market) and Puget Sound (not “the” Puget Sound).

That last one irritates the krumkake out of columnist Knute Berger, a historian and Seattle 4 lyfer who once did a residency at the Space Needle.

Berger said he has started to hear “the” Puget Sound on commercial radio and TV.

“It just sounds wrong,” he said.

Rivers get the “the,” he said. There’s the Chesapeake, and the Columbia River. Seas get "the." But sounds do not. Certain water features are exempt from the “the” title, he said.

Berger looked into how Puget Sound was named. Captain George Vancouver named the body of water after a crewman – he called it Puget’s Sound.

But from early settlement, Berger said, people have said Puget Sound. (It doesn’t appear to have had a name before then.)

Berger said that the “the” may have come from Californian broadcasters who moved up here. Californians seem to have a particular affinity for this particular article.

Californians say “the 5” for Interstate 5, or the Embarcadero. And now the “the” is sneaking into our area codes – “the 206,” or “the 425.”

“It’s a California-ism that came in through broadcast,” Berger said. Listeners shared their own linguistic pet peeves (full disclosure to out-of-towners: Seattleites are to blame for these).

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