Matt Levine had a good idea on Twitter:
My dream Weddings & Celebrations data journalism project is which firms get definite vs. indefinite articles ("Goldman, [the/a] bank …").— Matt Levine (@matt_levine) July 14, 2014
This is amusing of course because in the world of prestige-obsessed New York Times wedding announcements, the definite article “the” is far more prestigious than the indefinite article “a” – you want to work at the place everyone knows as the consulting firm, not a consulting firm!
I crawled through the Wedding Crunchers database of NYT wedding announcements to look for mentions of investment banks and consulting firms immediately preceded by “the” or “a”, then compiled the results into the spreadsheet at the bottom of this page. Caveats apply: some firms (JPMorgan, for example) tend not to be explicitly referred to as banks or consultancies, so we cannot measure where they fall on this particular New York Times Weddings & Celebrations prestige scale.
The results are pretty much what you’d expect: the usual suspects of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and McKinsey are almost exclusively referred to as “the” investment bank or consulting firm. Jefferies & Company receives the most mentions as “an” investment bank. While this puts Jefferies toward the bottom of the prestige scale, that might actually be a good omen: Lehman Brothers, Salomon Brothers, and Bear Stearns all rank highly in prestige, and we’ve seen how that worked out for them…