What’s “THE” Correct Terminology in Referring to Pacific Palisades and Pacific Coast Highway?

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The town of Pacific Palisades is bordered by Pacific Coast Highway or PCH.

(Editor’s note: In yesterday’s Musings, residents were alerted to a debate about the use of “the” in front of Pacific Palisades and PCH. Below are some of the responses. Readers in South Dakota will understand this controversy because is the state capitol Pierre pronounced Pier or the French Pierre?)

Palisades resident Rosalie Huntington wrote: “Let me begin by twisting Gertrude Stein’s famous knock against Oakland: Pacific Palisades — There Is No The There.

“I have little tolerance for ‘the’ before Pacific Palisades, Pacific Coast Highway and PCH!

“But for a short moment I am going to be generous in understanding why some people use ‘the’ before the highway’s proper name. Maybe saying ‘The Pacific Coast Highway’ or ‘The PCH’ is their way of using the name of the highway generically. It’s the highway along the Pacific coast. So, it’s ‘the’ Pacific coast highway, with lowercase ‘coast’ and ‘highway.’

“But there are some people who should know better. Steve Whitmore is one. He grew up in Pacific Palisades. I’m putting the spotlight on Whitmore because for many years he was the spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Anyone within earshot of his comments about some incident in our area would hear that errant ‘the’ in front of all three: Pacific Palisades, Pacific Coast Highway and PCH.

“Anyone within earshot of me, then would hear a groan in response. Whitmore continues to use that darned ‘the.’ In a 2018 piece for the South Pasadena Review, he writes: ‘I was raised in the Pacific Palisades in a somewhat idyllic atmosphere.’

“How about this for a solution? Post signs at entrances to our community that slightly alter my earlier phrase:

Welcome to Pacific Palisades. There Is No The Here.

Other readers wrote:

* “I use the word ‘the’ when Pacific Palisades is shortened; i.e., ‘I live in the Palisades’ vs. ‘I live in Pacific Palisades.’ Thanks for ‘the’ continued discussion!” Jill Smith

* “THE usage is like the age-old distinction between the Brits and us about use with ‘hospital.’ They always say ‘Going to hospital,’ whereas we always say ‘Going to THE hospital.’ Jay McCaan

* “Re: ‘The’ Palisades, I was reminded of how one of my friends of Ukrainian origin would explode when someone would say ‘The’ Ukraine. The insult, in her mind, was that using ‘the’ it implies that Ukraine was a province or something and not a country.” Neven Karlovac

* “How about the silliness of Ohio State calling itself THE Ohio State. Is there another…?!”  Sarah Cigliano

* “I’ve been following the ‘The’ controversy with great interest.  I agree with not using the ‘The’ before Pacific Palisades.  However, I do live in ‘The Palisades’–and that’s OK with me.” Ron Levin

* “In the Times caption using ‘the’ before Pacific Palisades, ‘the’ was used because Pacific Palisades was used as an adjective describing the area!” Claudia Timsit

* “Regarding the controversy over whether our town should be called ‘THE Pacific Palisades’ or simply ‘Pacific Palisades,’ I don’t feel strongly either way.  Personally, I refer to the town as Pacific Palisades, using ‘the’ only when I omit the word ‘Pacific,’ as in ‘the Palisades.’

“However, I find nothing wrong with the caption below the included photograph. The word ‘the’ is used here as an adjective modifying ‘area,’ not ‘Pacific Palisades.’ If the area mentioned were Brentwood or Santa Monica, no one would object to the phrase ‘the Brentwood area’ or ‘the Santa Monica area.’ With all due respect to Bill Bruns, whom I greatly admire, I don’t see this as a slip on the part of a Times’ copy editor; it is merely correct English grammar.” Ruth Mills, Language teacher, Palisades Charter High School

(Editor’s note: Bill Bruns wrote CTN almost immediately after the newsletter was posted: “Whoops! I was just re-reading my Musing, and I’m chagrined to say I made a big mistake. The caption about the photographer is actually correct—’patrolling the Pacific Palisades area.’ I was so obsessed with seeing ‘the Pacific Palisades’ that I failed to exercise my own role as a careful copy editor.  I apologize to the L.A. Times!”)

* “I believe the L.A. Times and Trip Advisor are correct. It’s appropriate to use ‘the’ when describing “the Pacific Palisades ‘area.’ However, I would never put ‘the’ before the name when telling someone I live in Pacific Palisades. Similarly, when starting a sentence such as Trip Advisor does with Pacific Coast Highway, it is appropriate to use ‘The’ in front. It reminds me of my friends from Northern California who get annoyed when I tell them you need to take ‘the 405’ to get to the airport. Or, take ‘the 5’ to get to Disneyland. They would never put ‘the’ in front of freeway names but I always.” Steve

* “Here’s another interesting use of ‘the’ – we use it before freeway numbers, but Bay Area people don’t!(https://www.kcet.org/shows/lost-la/the-5-the-101-the-405-why-southern-californians-love-saying-the-before-freeway-numbers)  Mimi Baer

* “While I don’t like ‘The’ in front of ‘Pacific Palisades,’ I think it came from our town’s nickname, ‘The Palisades.’

“As for using ‘the’ in front of road names, I love it because it is a uniquely West Coast or California thing. ‘Take the PCH to the 10 to the 405’– now that’s an often-used sentence in our local dialect. On the East Coast it’s ‘Take I-95’ sounds like [eye-95]. If you say, ‘Take the I-95,’ East Coast people actually notice and comment on it.” Anonymous.


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4 Responses to What’s “THE” Correct Terminology in Referring to Pacific Palisades and Pacific Coast Highway?

  1. Nona Hale says:

    Peer, of course! ( I grew up in Watertown.)

  2. Murray Levy says:

    Fascinating to read these musings. I was born and grew up in the Bronx, which always had a “the” for a good reason. Way back a family named Brunks had a farm in that area. Residents of Manhattan would say they were going to see the Brunks. “The” stuck when the area became part of New York named Bronx. As far as our community goes, when we speak of a generic location we use “the” as in I’m going to the beach. But we don’t use “the” when referring to a specific named place, as in “I’m going to Malibu.” So “the Palisades” is OK but the Pacific Palisades is a no-no.

  3. K says:

    I say “take PCH to the 405, to the 10”. A combo- sounds natural to me in that case. But never The PCH.
    The Palisades is right to me, but looks like we all agree on Pacific Palisades for our city’s name.

    I made the same error as Bill in the paper that morning, and for the same reason!

    Thanks for alerting us to this important topic! BTW, as someone who grew up near the Dakotas, Pierre was always pronounced like the man’s name. Sue? Bill? Any intel?

  4. Sue says:


    For the correct pronunciation of Pierre, Check Nona Hale’s post–


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