(a) John Doe

Discussion in 'English Only' started by nemo eve walle, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. nemo eve walle

    nemo eve walle Senior Member

    The alarm went out for a John Doe who stole the diamonds from the store.
    John Doe is a name, it shouldn't have an article ''a'', but see what I found, the example has an ''a'' before it.
  2. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    <<Moderator comment

    From the
    Guidelines in the first sticky thread:

    Threads without a source may be deleted at any time.*

    Having to ask for a source adds unnecessary posts and wastes everyone’s time.
  3. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    While you're providing the source of the quote, you might also provide the source for your statement that names cannot have indefinite articles in front of them.
  4. nemo eve walle

    nemo eve walle Senior Member

    I am sorry, I can't find the original source, so I found a new one: The police found a John Doe lying on the street last night.
    A name can not have articles in front of them, because you will never say ''The kid is clever, he looks like an Einstein'', or ''The Einstein is a great scientist'', right?
  5. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Wow, I am surprised that there isn't an existing thread on this topic! (Or if there is, I couldn't find it.) "John Doe" isn't really a name, though it certainly looks like one. It is a pseudo name assigned to a dead male whose name is unknown. You can therefore have one or more than one of them at any given time, and therefore "a John Doe" is fine. The female equivalent, by the way, is "Jane Doe."

    And actually, you can say "an Einstein," too: "He's a genius! An Einstein!"
  6. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English

    Human names are not unique. You will almost always find multiple persons with the same name.

    See this previous thread: A John Smith

    Moreover, "John Doe" is a synonym for "unidentified person."

    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Doe
  7. stormwreath Senior Member

    English - England
    Isn't it "Jane Roe"? As in "Roe versus Wade"?
  8. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    There is a previous thread, but it's rather thread-bare

    John/ Jane Doe

    The above linked Wikipedia article says:

    The names "John Doe" for males, "Jane Doe" or "Jane Roe" for females, or just "Doe" non-gender-specifically are used as placeholder names for a party whose true identity is unknown or must be withheld in a legal action, case, or discussion.

  9. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    Jane Roe of the court case and Jane Doe of the placeholder name are unrelated.

    John and Jane Doe. It makes sense to have the same last name for "dummy" names.
  10. stormwreath Senior Member

    English - England
    But 'Jane Roe' of the court case's real name is Norma McCorvey; she used 'Jane Roe' as a legal pseudonym to preserve her anonymity. It also seems that in 19th century England 'John Doe and Richard Roe' was a set phrase for anonymous litigants in court cases. Further research suggests to me that both 'Jane Doe' and 'Jane Roe' are in common use, though 'Roe' might be falling out of use as the general public agree with you that it 'makes sense' not to have a separate name for women.
  11. Copyright

    Copyright Senior Member

    American English
    Reason enough to hang around here – to learn something myself. :)

    From Wikipedia: John Doe: The Doe names [John Doe and Jane Doe] are often, though not always, used for anonymous or unknown defendants. Another set of names often used for anonymous parties, particularly plaintiffs, are Richard Roe for males and Jane Roe for females (as in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision Roe v. Wade).

    At least the last names of the pairs are the same. And I was wrong to say that Jane Doe and Jane Roe are unrelated.

    More information on that link, of course.

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