I'm trying to edit the Wikipedia entry on the apostrophe, and am having a bit of a to-do with a (British) Wikipedian about this line:
He's actually disputing the British usage, but we can sort that out between us! It's made me wonder about the American usage, though, so could I ask some questions?
Bus' engine or bus's engine
Boss' payrise or boss's payrise
Witness' reaction or witness's reaction
Charles' car or Charles's car
Moses' tablets or Moses's tablets
The circus' clown or the circus's clown
Ass' ears or ass's ears
And how definite would you say the rule is (whatever it is) in good American writing?
Also (just out of curiosity) how would you say Charles' - "Charles" or "Charlziz"?
boss's pay raise
In my opinion, the rule is definite. Violation of the rule is ubiquitously rampant.
I pronounce "Charles"s" as if it were spelled "Charlziz"
Thanks Jerry. More opinions needed!
So this, which says
The best info I can find says the rule can be found in whatever style sheet you are required to follow, and style sheets differ.
The problem often can be solved by practicing avoidance. When you're riding in the car that belongs to Charles and discussing the pay raise granted to the boss, you might get a whiff of the exhaust from the engine of the bus, and so on.
Paul, there have been some spirited discussions about that on this board. I confess that, until this board, I always wrote "boss'" or "Charles'" for possessive. I found that grammar sources varied on that and often said it could be either way.
Since this board, however, my mind (and writing) has changed. The fact that convinced me was that you say "bosses paper", so it should be "boss's paper." Now, I always add apostrophe "s" to be consistent.
There has been much (sprited) discussion about this and I will say only that I agree with Jerry absolutely.
I would add just two things.
Plurals of words ending in "s" are apostrophised in exactly the same way as other plurals (so the apostrophe is situated after the final "s")
Thus One boss's office; several bosses' offices.
Secondly, words ending in "s sounded vowel s" such as circus, Jesus, Xerses are often apostrophised as if they were plurals. Thus the Circus' takings; Jesus' Disciples; Xerses' conquests. However, it is not considered incorrect to use conventional apostrophisation - circus's; Jesus's; Xerses's.
The problem with the conventional apostrophisation of such words is simply one of pronunciation so I submit that the use of the "apostrophe after" style is better reserved for spoken English.
In the USA the misuse of the "plural" apostropisation form is becoming so common that some US style books now accept it as correct. Since it can create ambiguity, I feel this is to be deplored.
Jerry and Richard have pretty well said it all. I'll just add my vote to theirs.
What I really want to know is, what would the average American consider correct? I'm trying to be descriptive here, not presciptive.
The average American has fewer than two legs, speaks more than one language and has 1.4 children.
Now, when you find him or her...
My research has established that there is a small majority of Americans who use the correct way of apostrophising words ending in "s" (boss's; James's; Charles's) although there seems to be a move to the incorrect and unecessary "pural" formation for such possessive singulars (boss'; Charles'; James') when they are written. However, even when this form is used in writing, the possessive seems still to be pronounced (bossiz; Jamesiz; Charlesiz) as if it were apostrophised correctly.
Daft, I call it.
There are many threads here that have addressed apostrophes, but this one is probably the most relevant to your question.
My daughter, a Yale graduate and a law student at the University of Chicago (I say this only to let you know that she is fairly intelligent), was shocked that her professor took off points for "Williams'." Thus, I asked the question on this board, and you see the answers. My feeling is that we are a bit more flexible here in the states about the use of apostrophes. Most, though not all, grammar sources say either way is acceptable, and, indeed, that's what my editor said as well.
However, as you can see by my posts, I have become inflexible and now will only use "Williams's."
Thank you Kalleh.
I don't want to stir it up again, but (depending on the full context) I might have used the Williams case, no apostrophe at all! I'm not sure it is a possessive -- after all we might talk about the body-in-the-freezer case, so I'd contend the use is adjectival and not possessive.
Of course, if it was a briefcase belonging to Mr and Mrs Williams, then it would be the Williams's case, and indeed if, as a lawyer, I asked someone else to take on the Williams's (sic) case, then they'd be reponsible for "the Williams case".
Doesn't make much sense, does it?
[Edited to remove convoluted phrasing.]
[This message was edited by pauld on Sat Jun 28th, 2003 at 2:31.]
quote:Did I use it wrong? I looked it up and the third definition is "therefore" or "consequently", with the sentence: "Thus it was necessary for me to resign."
quote:First, I am sure it was a legal case and not a brief case. Secondly, Paul, therein lies my problem with apostrophes, now that I have some of my misuses cleared up (from former threads, I was clearly an apostrophe addict! Thankfully, our arnie provided intensive tutoring.) However, now I still get confused over the adjective question. I believe it was Richard who said to put it in the form of "it is the case of Williams." If I try that method, it would need an apostrophe, I believe. The case belongs to Williams.
Not as far as I'm concerned. I'd have just as happily used "thus" as "therefore".
quote:quote:First, I am sure it was a legal case and not a brief case. Secondly, Paul, therein lies my problem with apostrophes, now that I have some of my misuses cleared up (from former threads, I was clearly an apostrophe addict! Thankfully, our arnie provided intensive tutoring.) However, now I still get confused over the adjective question. I believe it was Richard who said to put it in the form of "it is the case of Williams." If I try that method, it would need an apostrophe, I believe. The case belongs to Williams.
Actually the "body-in-the-freezer" test is as good a way as any to test for the need. Can you substitute something else that is obviously adjectival and not possessive ? If you can then I'd contend that you could leave the apostrophe out. "The Williams Case" is exactly what I'd write just as I'd write "the Johnson Case" or "the Smith Case".
Only if the context made it absolutely clear that I wanted the possessive would I include it. That is, if I wanted to say something like "the Smiths' case is rather weak, I'd rule in favour of the Johnsons. or "The Williamses' case is rather weak, I'd rule in favour of the Smiths".
But remember I've always been one of the board's advocates of adjectival usage.
Non curo ! Si metrum no habet, non est poema.
Read all about my travels around the world here.
Read even more of my travel writing and poems on my weblog.
[This message was edited by BobHale on Fri Jun 27th, 2003 at 12:55.]
Sports Car is a good test. It's clearly not the car of the sport (which would need the possessive), so it must be a car of type sports (which makes sport adjectival).
Is it the case of the Williams, or a case of type Williams? Moot, I'd say, but as it's being used as an example case in law teaching, I'd tend towards the latter.
Electrician's screwdriver is arguably electricians screwdriver by the above argument, but I still apostrophise that, so I'm not very consistent. (But maybe that's because I feel it's of type electrician's -- I don't think I want to think about the possessive form being used adjectivally!)
Or even electricians' screwdriver since it's a type that is part of the tool kit of most electricians
It sounds to me like the law professor was wrong to take off the points.
Back to apostrophes....
Our local sub and pizza shop has the following on their boxes:
"The best subs, pizza, wings, taco's, and salads"
I have always felt the apostrophe in "taco's" was wrong, but my husband says that because it is a Spanish word, you can't just add an "s" because that makes a new word entirely. Can someone help me with this one?
simple as that !! (note: NO apostrophe!!)
It's just one more example of the strange belief that so many people seem to have that is is necessary to insert an apostrophe to make the plural of words ending with a vowel.
As has been mentioned previously, in England we often call this the "Greengrocers' apostrophe" in view of the propensity for constructions such as "lettuce's"; "apple's"; tomato's" to appear on the price labels of fruit and vegetable stalls.
By the way, why do so the names of so many fruits and vegetables end in a vowel?
I'd prefer electricians' screwdrivers -- surely all those electricians don't share one screwdriver?
He was referring to my "after all we might talk about the body-in-the-freezer case".
I've now got it in a form I'm happy with, I think. "http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe_(punctuation)"
I've also added crumpet and fortnight to its "List of British English words not used in American English".
[Edited to replace link by quoted URL -- the board software doesn't seem to like the brackets in the URL.]
[This message was edited by pauld on Tue Jul 1st, 2003 at 6:09.]
Well, I will let the body-in-the-freezer question go since it is obvious that I should know what you mean....
In the World Travel Dictionary (published by Columbus and, I blush to say, originally created by me), there is a large list of US/UK translations. The latest revision has enlarged the list but, as I was not commissioned to update the work, I can't now vouch for its accuracy.
Crumpet is one entry - but did you know that there is no such thing as an English Muffin in England?
I was suggesting that there should be no apostrophe in Williams case because Williams is being used as an adjective, not a possessive. To test this, I suggested replacing Williams with something which doesn't look like a possessive, such as the-body-in-the-freezer.
Would we say the-body-in-the-freezer case (adjectival use) or the body-in-the-freezer's case (possessive use)? I contend that we'd say the first, and thus Williams case is acceptable.
This is what Bob's referring to as the body-in-the-freezer test.
Well, I did, obviously! It's maybe not surprising, as presumably what we order as, say, "Italian Ice Cream" would be "Ice Cream" in Italy!
(Or do you mean that the thing does not exist? Is not an English Muffin just a muffin, what the Muffin Man used to sell in nursery rhymes?)
Sign in the window of a business that is closing:
We"ll Miss You!
No. What you get in the USA if you order an English Muffin is not the same as the thing you get in England if you order a muffin.
A bit like ordering Budweiser and expecting to get beer...!
I'm still confused about my muffins, because if you order a muffin here now, you'll get an American one.
If I ordered an English Muffin in the US, would I get:
- a crumpet
- a muffin like we used to have in the "olden days"
- something unknown to the English?
[This message was edited by pauld on Thu Jul 3rd, 2003 at 5:06.]
When I ordered an English muffin in the USA I got something that I had never experienced in England. It is a small spongy cake made with eggs and baking powder. They are becoming available in the UK but as a US import.
The US "English Muffin" It is nothing like a crumpet (unknown in the USA in either sense of the word)
Real English muffins are a light, flat, circular, spongy cake, usually toasted and buttered and sometimes eaten with jam (what you call "jelly" in the US).
There is an article with pictures of "EnglisH muffins" muffins as we know them in England and crumpets here http://imaginatorium.org/words/muffin.htm
Whilst we're on the subject, stones (14lb ones) and, possibly, by the same definition, pints of beer, too
The link Richard gave has excellent pictures on it. The first item, is what we , in the U.S. call an English Muffin. It is light and airy and has nooks and crannys to catch the melted butter after you toast it. We also use them to make individual "muffin pizzas", topping them with sauce, cheese, and pepperoni and baking them for 10 minutes. Kids love this and I always let them create their own with different toppings.
The next item on the page is a Muffin. Usually quite heavy and flavored with fruit. They are best split with a little butter on them. The best part of a muffin is the top though that bakes with a bit of crunchiness to it. I remember an old episode of "Seinfeld" where Elaine was baking whole muffins and attempting to discard the "stubs" so she only had to sell the muffin tops, as no one wanted the bottoms!
The third item, the Crumpets, are a mystery to me. Perhaps one of you Brits could expound on their wonder!
Then I wonder where we got the term "English muffin"?
[This message was edited by Kalleh on Fri Jul 4th, 2003 at 20:59.]
English Muffin – A round (about 3 inches in diameter) muffin that is made from soft yeast dough and baked on a griddle.
History: The origin of the English Muffin can be dated back to the 10th century in Wales. A yeast-leavened cake called Bara Maen was baked on hot stones in 10th century Wales. A similar cake or muffin baked on hot griddles was popular in 19th century England, where the hot, fresh muffins were peddled door to door by the "muffin man.” The prominence of the muffin men in English society even became a popular children’s nursery rhyme and song, “Have you seen the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man? Have you seen the muffin man, that lives in Drury Lane?"
The word crumpet has three UK meanings, none of which are known in the USA.
The crumpet shown in the picture is a foodstuff. It is a circular falt cake of yeast mixture eaten toasted and buttered. It is not itself sweet and can thus be eaten with either sweet or savory toppings.Crumpets are primarily eaten in the winter although these days they can be bought throughout the year. They are quite delicious.
The second meaning, used only in the singular, means an attractive woman. For example, "...that's Fred's bit of crumpet..." It is slang and mildly offensive. If more than one woman is being referred to, the word remains singular as in the phrase, "...there was plenty of crumpet at the party..."
The final meaning is the head. Again it is slang and now almost archaic.
Because of the sexual connotations, non-UK users of the word should be careful when using the term and one of the most effective ways of avoiding sniggers from the assemblage, is simply to use the plural.
"...I would quite like some crumpets..." is unabiguous and will not be misunderstood. "...I would like some crumpet (or worse, a bit of crumpet)..." will create much mirth among the British present.
Richard, the first definition of "crumpet" is known in the U.S., though I agree the second two are not. In fact, recently my husband and I were in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a tea house that served crumpets.
Under the heading of "Old jokes never die..."
Kalleh & Shufitz go into a tea house in Pennsylvania. Kalleh asks the man behind the counter "Do you serve crumpets here?" and he responds, "Siddown, Lady. We serve anybody."
As I tried to explain, that confusion would not arise in the UK since "crumpet" when referrring to a person, is only ever used in the singular.
In the UK the question, "...Do you serve crumpet here...?" could also be answered,"...Certainly we do sir - do you want her dressed or undressed...?"
Asa sent me a poem by e-mail and got me laughing with the following:
"Not MY poem, but Dylan Thomas's's's's's's'. There, To hell with them there
Just back from a small town in Ohio. Name of the street we were on? O'POSSOM DRIVE!
Saw an ad for a hair salon that brought this forum (R.E. in particular) to mind. They said that they specialize in "up-do's."
When you think of it though, how else would you plrualize "up-do"? "Up-dos" looks like some sort of old computer term.
Good point. I think in this case the apostrophe is appropriate.
I think that it would help to make a decision if I knew what an "up-do" is.
Hair salons in the UK cut and style hair.
Hair-dos is very common and doesn't need an apostrophe.
I disagree. While that spelling is common, I do think that an apostrophe would be of help.
"Hair-dos" looks as if it should rhyme with "floss." Were it to be spelled "hair-doos" or "hair-dooze" or something like that, this wouldn't be a problem but these options are, of course, not going to happen.
A careful rephrasing could be a solution, something along the lines of: "We can give you an up-do. And then we can give you another one!" but this doesn't seem likely either.
"Up-do's" and "hair-do's" seem to be the best, if not perfect, options.
And on an unrelated note, "up-do" is one of those words that doesn't seem to have an opposite. Has any woman on this board ever gone to a salon to get a "down-do"?
To be honest, I haven't heard of "up-do" either, Richard. It must be a southern Illinois type of hair-do. Now, I do know "highlights" and "lowlights." CJ, is an up-do when the woman has her hair done up on her head? Like a French twist or a bun or French braids pinned up? Ladies?
CJ, this may be the first time.....but I agree with you about "do's" versus "dos." Besides what you have said, many signs in Chicago are written in English and Spanish. "Up-dos" or "hair-dos" might confuse the Spanish speaking clients. I go for the apostrophe. After all, the style books say it is okay to use a non-possessive one when it confuses the context, like in p's and q's. This strikes me as similar.
colloq. (orig. U.S.).
A style of dressing women's hair by sweeping it up and securing it away from the face and neck.
It gives three citations from 1938, 1966 and 1984.
Reviving an apostrophe thread...
It has been awhile since we've talked about...apostrophes! [Somehow "apostrophes" and "epicaricacy" seem to be the theme of this board. ]
The editorial of the NY Times today had an apostrophe error, though I never quite trust myself on these things. Let me throw it out to you experts. If in fact I am right, you will see from the context that it is rather ironic!
A Yale professor in charge of a Governance Institute was asked to resign because of financial misconduct. Here is what the NY Times says, "There has been much gnashing of teeth among corporate governance experts, who say this is simply another case of leaders' failing to lead by example."
[Shouldn't the NY Times lead by example in writing? ]
Quote "...is simply another case of leaders' failing to lead by example...."
Correct, in my view, since I would suggest that "failing" is a gerund (a verb masquerading as a noun) and thus it is a failing that belongs to the leaders - "the leaders' failing".
The rule is a tricky one - easy enough if a pronoun is involved "...their failing..." but less easy when it's a noun. "...The leaders are failing..." needs no apostrophe since it is clearly a verb; "...the leaders' failing...", with the apostrophe, when it's a gerund.