Why the definite article in "mess with the Zohan"?

Can you please explain to me why the movie is called “You don’t mess with the Zohan” when Zohan is just the name of a person? I mean, what is the purpose of the definite article in the title? Why is the movie not called “You don’t mess with Zohan”?

Thanks a lot,

TOEIC listening, photographs: Working together[YSaerTTEW443543]

I think it’s based on the expression “Don’t mess with the (main) man”, which mainly refers to mafia bosses, drug-trafficking bosses, hired assassins and similar. In a wider sense “the man” is used to talk about any man who has the power and/or position to make decisions and permit actions.


If you want anything done, see the man.

Mafia thugs grabbing a guy off the street.

Guy: Where are you taking me?

Thug: To see the man.

Hi Molly,

Thanks a lot for your quick response. Your explanation makes perfect sense.

TOEIC listening, photographs: Pulling a rope[YSaerTTEW443543]

You’re the man, here. Well, after Alan, that is. :lol:

I suspect it’s also a play on stereotypes in language. It’s very common for 2nd language speakers to toss in unnecessary articles in English, so saying ‘the Zohan’ just reinforces the idea of foreigners speaking English, highlighting the fact that people are always a little suspicious when they hear their language being used incorrectly.

The movie is about misjudging people and pokes fun at perceived stereotypes, so putting a stereotypical language error in the title just falls in line with the movie’s theme.

I doubt Skrej’s take has value in this context. The “Don’t mess with” part in the title is all important here.

And, remember “The Fonz”?

The Big Lebowski (The Dude)?

Check this out: Don’t Mess With the Winehouse? (On Google)

And this: You don’t mess with the Lohan.

ttp://www.tmz.com/2008/06/13/you-dont-m … the-lohan/

This: Don’t mess with the Johan
nydailynews.com/blogs/mets/2 … ess-w.html

There are more.

If this is to be believed:

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan starts with a premise that at least feels original, even if it’s not: Sandler plays the title character, who’s been christened with a definite article because he’s a famously unstoppable killing machine in the Israeli army’s counterterrorist unit.

moviezeal.com/2008/06/06/you … the-zohan/

I would take “the man” as a deliberate distortion of a particular use of the definite article: to refer to an X which (the speaker assumes) the addressee will readily identify without further explanation.

With “the man”, there are usually very many possible referents; the assumption therefore shows particular respect towards the “man” in question. (If the addressee does not know which “man” is intended, the phrase is still likely to instil apprehension, by the very fact that some other person offers that respect to the unknown party.)

“The Zohan” sounds like a slightly different but related case: the manufacture of an ad hoc honorific. It uses the same apparatus as e.g. the naming of Gaelic clan chiefs, where (in many cases) the title of the head of the clan is “The” + the surname. (Cf. Michael O’Rahilly’s self-appointment as The O’Rahilly.) This device presumably also derives from the “assumptive” aspect of the definite article.

If someone says The Torsten, or The Molly, or The Skrej, it is clearly very flattering: it implies the Torsten of Torstens, the Molly of Mollies, and (if I have the plural right) the Skrej of Skrejes.


Donald Trump is known as “The Donald” in the US, and this nickname arose after his Czech wife referred to him that way in an interview. The media picked up on Ivana’s usage and the rest is history.

Is the “assumptive” aspect the same as the “unique” aspect?

You are The Pedantic. Flattered? :wink:

How does that relate to this:

As an honorific.

Alternatively, we can take it as simple objectification: cf. “The Terminator”, or the nicknames of guns, swords, etc.


We could indeed. For sure this is not the reason the article was used:

Out of idle curiosity, M, have you had a discussion with Adam Sandler about the reason(s) for the use of the definite article in the title? And have you even seen the movie?

Do you believe Skrej’s suggestion is a possibility? And, apart from your “The Donald” contribution, I don’t see your opinion posted here. What is it?

You seem to have gone out of your way to purposely misinterpret and misrepresent Skrej’s post. I agree with Skrej that there may possibly have been more than one reason for the decision to use the definite article in the title of the movie. Since I haven’t asked the author about the reason(s), however, I can’t possibly know for sure. And neither can you.

You seem to have gone out of your way to purposely misinterpret and misrepresent Skrej’s post.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Amy. Yawn!

Maybe if you gave us a few examples of what you think the decision was based on…