blaze the trail

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SuprunP

Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
"Now, listen. Turner," he barked, "United Space Mail is inaugurating a new service and you’re elected to blaze the trail."
(I. Asimov; Ring Around the Sun)

blaze a trail
to explore new territories, areas of knowledge, etc., in such a way that others can follow
Collins English Dictionary
Why 'the' in the original?

Thanks.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I take it to mean "the trail that we intend to follow". When I read or hear of blazing trails in figurative language, the phrase often uses the definite article.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The speaker is referring to a specific trail, so he uses the definite article "the." "Blaze a trail," as in the dictionary definition, is a general statement that does not refer to any particular trail. The important part of the definition is the meaning of "blaze ... trail" together. Each speaker or writer must choose the article ("a" or "the") that fits the situation.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Incidentally, "blaze...trail" derives from the practice of "blazing" or cutting a blaze (chopping off a patch of bark, leaving a highly-visible white mark) on trees at intervals, to assure followers that they are on the trail searched out by an advance scout. Blazing a trail is thus being the first person to look for a way through uncharted territory, and leaving indications for followers. The variation of blazing the trail would be to indicate that the speaker believes that the trail so-blazed will be the trail followed in this particular instance for the foreseeable future.

    These days, even in physical exploring, the phrase is almost always metaphorical; there are not many places where people feel it is acceptable to hack chunks off trees, when a bit of fluorescent plastic tape tied to a branch will work as well or better.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    ...These days, even in physical exploring, the phrase is almost always metaphorical; there are not many places where people feel it is acceptable to hack chunks off trees, when a bit of fluorescent plastic tape tied to a branch will work as well or better.
    In this part of the world, the usual blaze is a small rectangle of light-colored paint, on the trunk of a tree, slightly above eye level. Some trails use two rectangles, one above the other, to indicate an upcoming turn.
     

    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    This may be a case of homonym:

    BLAZE: ORIGIN mid 17th cent. ( sense 1 of the noun): ultimately of Germanic origin; related to German Blässe ‘blaze’ and blass ‘pale,’ also to blaze1, and probably to blemish.
    Generally, a light-colored, highly-visible mark. It can also refer to a white or light patch of hair on the forehead of an animal.
     
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