with <the> superhero underwear

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Phoebe1200

Senior Member
Russian-Russia
School of Rock, TV series
Context: Zack and Freddy actually react to Tomika's cool new style when she walks by but Lawrence who walks up to them mistakingly thinks that they're talking about him.


Zack: Woah! Cool new style. (about Tomika)
Lawrence: Thanks, Zack. I went with the superhero underwear today.
Freddy: We can't actually see your underwear.
Lawrence: You can see it in my confident strut. (walks away strutting and snapping his fingers)


Could you please explain why he used "the"?
 
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    He talks of the underwear in a way that shows his listeners must be familiar with that underwear. Or that they can infer it is the only set of such underwear that he has.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Do you mean that the listeners know that he owns such (superhero) underwear?
    Yes, this is what I mean.
    And if the listeners did not know that until a moment ago, now they know he owns some superhero underwear.
    I don't understand this.:( Why would it be the only set of such underwear that he has?
    He may have twenty sets of underwear. However, only one set is the superhero underwear - all the rest is ordinary underwear.
    Alternatively, he may have 25 sets of underwear and have a name for each set - the superhero, the wimp, the macho, the loser, the sissy, the pansy, etc. underwear :D The definite article can indicate uniqueness.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thank you very much.

    So basically he used "the" to show contrast?
    Like "the superhero underwear" as opposed to "the ordinary underwear", right?
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thanks.:)
    Two last questions.

    1) Could he still have used zero article "I went with superhero underwear today."?

    2) Could "a" be used in the OP "I went with a superhero underwear today."?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    1) Yes, possible. But until a moment ago the listener may not have known he had superhero underwear or, indeed, that there even was anything called that. He is introducing the concept now, thereby informing the listener that a) superhero underwear exists and b) he has some of it. Both a) and b) represent new bits of information. In contrast, when he says 'with the superhero underwear', the listener is expected to already know a) and b).

    2) No, underwear is uncountable
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    2) No, underwear is uncountable
    I was only thinking about using "a" in the OP because I thought maybe 'superhero' acts as an adjective and sometimes uncountable nouns are used with "a" when an adjective precedes them. No?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Errrm, no. No. :) But I suppose you need to start a separate thread and ask a more specific question.

    Phoebe, I really feel for you - I know you do not have these definite/indefinite articles in Russian so it must be difficult. When Russian people learn Bulgarian they often confuse our definite and indefinite articles, even after living here for 20-30 years...
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Ah, OK.:) But I just wanted to know if it was possible to use the indefinite article "with a superhero underwear" in the OP. But does 'superhero' act as an adjective in the OP?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    P.S. I am reminded that 'other boring stuff' sounds ambiguous and may be interpreted to mean that helping you is also boring stuff. :D This is not what I meant, of course.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    "The superhero underwear". Find an image of Superman. Note that he appears to wear red underpants outside his tight trousers. Repeat for Batman - black underpants. Hence "We can't actually see your underwear." Lawrence says that he's walking like a superhero because he's wearing the underpants that superheros wear.

    I'm afraid this type of "humour" passes me by.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    P.S. I am reminded that 'other boring stuff' sounds ambiguous and may be interpreted to mean that helping you is also boring stuff. :D This is not what I meant, of course.
    Don't even worry about it. I know you would never mean it that way.:thumbsup::)

    They are, but when it happens the uncountable noun usually denotes an abstract idea, or something. It doesn't work with underwear:D
    Thank you.:)
    Hence "We can't actually see your underwear." Lawrence says that he's walking like a superhero because he's wearing the underpants that superheros wear.

    I'm afraid this type of "humour" passes me by.
    I'm afraid I'm not following.:)
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    "The superhero underwear". Find an image of Superman. Note that he appears to wear red underpants outside his tight trousers. Repeat for Batman - black underpants. Hence "We can't actually see your underwear." Lawrence says that he's walking like a superhero because he's wearing the underpants that superheros wear.

    I'm afraid this type of "humour" passes me by.
    That meaning did not occur to me. I assumed that he meant something similar to Underoos, which is underwear with pictures of superheroes on them. They are generally intended for small children, which is what I assumed the joke was.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I still don't understand this usage of THE though, unless it is something boozer meant. If "superhero underwear" grammatically acts in the same way as ladies'/women's/men's underwear, why is the article there?:confused:
    which is underwear with pictures of superheroes on them
    Hmmm, I checked some pictures, it seems like Underoos just make underwear reminding those superhero-characters wear, in colors and logos, so that the children feel like superheroes:)
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    Well, Vic, you'll have to forgive my faulty memory, but it's been some time since I've worn them … :)

    Edit: I see that they do both. And in adult sizes too. I had no idea!

    I subscribe to Boozer's theory that he has only one pair of superhero undies.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I've never heard of Underoos, so that cultural reference passes me by. I think there's also something about some television comedy scriptwriting that loses me completely. Why would anybody laugh when Lawrence, wearing invisible children's underwear, says "You can see it in my confident strut"?

    As I clearly haven't a clue about School of Rock, I'll just accept this:
    I subscribe to Boozer's theory that he has only one pair of superhero undies.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Lawrence: Thanks, Zack. I went with the superhero underwear today.
    Could you please explain why he used "the"?
    "Superhero" is used as an adjective - you can replace it with almost any other adjective, e.g. "red".

    When an uncountable noun (in your case, 'underwear') is qualified by an adjective, it is specified and therefore "the" is justified.
    Because it is specified, it is implied that he has other types of underwear.

    A: "What shall I wear today?"
    B: "Wear the red jeans."
    A: "What about the white jeans?"
    B: "No - the dog has eaten them."
    Lawrence: You can see it in my confident strut. (walks away strutting and snapping his fingers)
    The reason this makes people laugh is the image it creates when contrasted with the person who would say this. It's humour is best explained by H. L Mencken who said
    “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

    I hope that this helps.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    By 'set' you mean "several pairs of superhero underwear"?
    No, not really. 'Underwear' is a general word. It can include boxer shorts, underpants, singlets, vests, T-shirts, etc. and that is only men's underwear. You will know better than me what ladies' underwear might include - panties, G-strings, bra, corsets, bustiers, etc. (nice things :) )

    Now, I suppose Lawrence will have meant only a pair of shorts or underpants or something (something worn on the bum :) ), but I do not find it impossible for him to have meant a full set of such underwear, e.g. a set of underpants plus a T-shirt or a vest. Why not socks as well...
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thank you for answering.:)

    What if he has several sets of superhero underwear, like, one set is Superman themed, another set is Batman themed and so on, in that case, he would still use the definite article since he would still have to distinguish it from his ordinary underwear, right?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Well, insofar as both Superman and Batman are 'superheroes', yes, he could say 'the superhero underwear' to distinguish both sets from his ordinary underwear. :)
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Well, insofar as both Superman and Batman are 'superheroes', yes, he could say 'the superhero underwear' to distinguish both sets from his ordinary underwear. :)
    Thanks.:)
    When an uncountable noun (in your case, 'underwear') is qualified by an adjective, it is specified and therefore "the" is justified.
    Because it is specified, it is implied that he has other types of underwear.

    A: "What shall I wear today?"
    B: "Wear the red jeans."
    A: "What about the white jeans?"
    B: "No - the dog has eaten them."
    Thank you.:)
     
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