Thursday, March 10, 2016

"Papa Homer, You Are So Learn-ed." / "Learned, Son. It's Pronounced 'Learned.'"

Last week I was having a conversation with someone. We were talking about a family with the last name of Wells. I said, "What about the Wellses?" My conversation partner said, "What? Oh, the Wells?"

No, not the Wells.

I'm not sure why it is impossible for people who wear glasses, receive stitches, and pick their noses (We all do it!) to take a singular noun that ends in an S-noise and make it plural.

Another reason to not be pedantic: you don't look foolish when you're wrong. A different conversation partner that same day wanted to talk with me about the economics of John Maynard "Keenes." I let him talk, because what's the value in pointing out stuff like that? It might save him future embarrassment, but only by costing him current embarrassment. That's not really a welfare gain (especially since we're replacing future potential embarrassment with current actual embarrassment). And in the meantime, there's a chance he will learn in a non-embarrassing way the correct way to pronounce Keynes's name. Only if I knew that I could embarrass him now in front of someone who doesn't matter (me) to save him much more embarrassment in front of someone who matters a lot would that be welfare-enhancing. But the guy is already married and employed in his rest-of-his-life job (those are things that people born before 1970 got to have). There's no one that he needs to make very certain never sees him embarrass himself. So let it go.

And for Pete's sake, people, learn how to make plurals and possessives of names that end with an S.

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