by the side of <the> highway


Scully: We have a whole new assignment.
Mulder: Running down people that buy fertilizer? This is scut work, bozo work. This is the F.B.I. equivalent of being made to wear an orange jumpsuit and pick up trash by the side of the highway — they mean to humiliate us.
The X-Files, episode Drive

Is a specific highway implied here?
Thank you.
  • SevenDays

    Senior Member
    I'll ask from a different angle then — why is it the definite article rather than indeifnite?:)
    Because of the typical image associated with the concept "highway;" that's precisely one of the uses of the definite article. Because there's specificity of a typical image, but not specificity in an actual sense (Mulder is talking generically, not about any specific highway), some call "this highway" a definite generic noun phrase.

    Could you say "and pick up trash by the side of a highway"? Sure; there's no rule that prevents it. It's just that the indefinite article is commonly used with definitions (A highway is a major road with heavy traffic).
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