Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely [the]

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
the
used to emphasize that the person, place, or thing you are mentioning is the famous one, or the best or most fashionable one. ‘The’ is pronounced strongly or written in a special way:
‘Elizabeth Taylor was there.’ ‘Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely?’
LDOCE

Explain this dialog to me, please. The first person says that Elizabeth Taylor was at an event. What does the second mean?
Thank you.
 
  • Sabretooth

    Senior Member
    American English
    The second, which would be better written as "Not THE Elizabeth Taylor, surely?" is a way of confirming that it was the best-known Elizabeth Taylor (the late actress) that was actually there, and not just some other woman who happened to be named Elizabeth Taylor.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    ‘Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely?’ = I can hardly accept that the genuine, world-famous actress, Elizabeth Taylor, was there." In my sentence, 'the' may be pronounced normally.

    In written work, I'd be cautious with using capital letters for the - italics would be enough.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    There are other people, besides the famous actress, who are called Elizabeth Taylor. The use of "the" here identifies the person as the (most famous) specific one that everyone knows of, rather than someone who just has the same name. In this case the word is pronounce thee, no matter what sound follows it.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    That is, if one says: Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely?’, it means "‘The Elizabeth Taylor, really?’", am I right?
    (despite of negation in the first example, and confirmation in the second)
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    No, there is no implied "really?" I'll stick with my version in #3.
    But I have omitted "not", too.
    ‘Elizabeth Taylor was there.’ ‘Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely?’
    ‘Elizabeth Taylor was there.’ ‘The Elizabeth Taylor, really?’
    Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely?’ looks like the speaker is waiting for confirmation that it was not THE Elizabeth Taylor. Something like: "Are you kidding me?" Right?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    To add a little to your idea: In the case of Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely?’ looks like the speaker is waiting for confirmation or denial that it was not THE Elizabeth Taylor. I suppose it matters who is saying the sentence as to which will be the most likely.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    The person who says "Not the Elizabeth Taylor, surely?" doubts that Elizabeth Taylor, the famous actress, was really there. Instead, s/he suggests that the person who was there was just an Elizabeth Taylor - like Elizabeth Taylor, a bank clerk from Duluth, or Elizabeth Taylor, my mom's bridge partner. Each of those two women is an Elizabeth Taylor, but neither is the Elizabeth Taylor, the one who starred in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The sentence from the dictionary means "I can't really believe that that Elizabeth Taylor was there!"
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top