Friday, January 18, 2008

Follow Up to Apostrophe Rules

Cristin, the link you supplied agrees with me.

• add 's to the singular form of the word (even if it ends in -s):

the owner's car

James's hat

Also agreeing with me is The Royal Parks, the group that runs St. James's Park in London.

What flabbergasts me is that this is not something that is known by everyone whose name ends in S. I work with a guy named James (cleverly given the pseudonym of Tito on this blog) who doesn't know how to make the possessive form of his own name. Another reason that I hate him.

Our baby boy name (the one Rachel guessed on a totally lucky guess) ends in S and our son will have the rules of apostrophe use beaten into him. I don't want him going through life with people asking behind his back, "Did he huff paint fumes?"

Persephone made the valid point that the name Jesus only gets a free pass for Jesus Himself, not for Hispanics named Jesus. They have to write Jesus's.

Another misuse of the apostrophe that I forgot to mention earlier is the word "its." Even I am tempted (sometimes) to throw in an apostrophe, thinking, "It needs one because it's showing possession." Wrong! The word "its" is like the word "his," which shows possession without an apostrophe. It's a possessive pronoun. The only time you put an apostrophe with "it" is when you are leave out the second letter "I" of the phrase "it is."

Yet another trouble-making pair is "who's" and "whose." When the apostrophe is recognized as the tool it is, the choice is clear. When it's included out of duty, chaos ensues.


Cristin Lassen said...

Okay, whatever.

I think we're both right. You made a good point with the Jesus thing. This is according to Wikipedia:

Rules that modify or extend this principle have included the following:

* If the singular possessive is difficult or awkward to pronounce with an added sibilant, do not add an extra s; these exceptions are supported by The Guardian,[5] Emory University's writing center,[6] and The American Heritage Book of English Usage.[7] Such sources permit possessive singulars like these: Socrates' later suggestion; James's house, or James' house, depending on which pronunciation is intended.
* Classical, biblical, and similar names ending in a sibilant, especially if they are polysyllabic, do not take an added s in the possessive; among sources giving exceptions of this kind are The Times[8] and The Elements of Style, which make general stipulations, and Vanderbilt University,[9] which mentions only Moses and Jesus. As a particular case, Jesus' is very commonly written instead of Jesus's, even by people who would otherwise add 's in, for example, James's or Chris's; Jesus' is referred to as "an accepted liturgical archaism" in Hart's Rules.

Similar examples of notable names ending in an s that are often given a possessive apostrophe with no additional s include Dickens and Williams. There is often a policy of leaving off the additional s on any such name, but this can prove problematic when specific names are contradictory (for example, St James' Park in Newcastle [the football ground] and the area of St. James's Park in London).

Some people like to reflect standard spoken practice in cases like these with sake: for convenience' sake, for goodness' sake, for appearance' sake, for compromise' sake, for peace' sake, etc. This punctuation is preferred in major style guides. Others prefer to add 's: for convenience's sake.[10] Still others prefer to omit the apostrophe when there is an s sound before sake: for morality's sake, but for convenience sake.

Erik said...

I'm not even gonna bother reading that whole mess.