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“driver’s licenses” or “drivers’ licenses”? 
Posted: 19 March 2007 12:27 PM   [ Ignore ]
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A little off-topic, but I’m tired of perpetually waffling on this one, and I’m editing something right now that requires me to make a call on it, and I hoped you thoughtful wordies could help me decide. Thanks!

~Valerie

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Love makes dough rise.
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Posted: 19 March 2007 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"Driver’s licenses”: one driver has more than one license. Sounds suspicious to me.  Do not cash checks for this person.

“Drivers’ licenses”: multiple drivers, multiple licenses.  Presumably a 1:1 ratio, but that may be presuming too much.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Love makes dough rise

My vote goes to carbon dioxide. Love is too busy lying four (maybe five as we get older and rounder) spans below the chin, and making the world go round, to have much truck with dough.

Seriously, though, Kyriosity.... Surely the answer to your call for help depends on the context in which the eventual phrase of your choice must reside. Why don’t you try us with the context? You will get a lot more answers that way, and greatly increase the likelihood of one of them being to your liking. Nobody likes giving answers on the basis of inadequate data (except for politicians, journalists, and other no-’counts, who as a rule don’t give a fig for data anyway, or for right answers either).

(edit) “Driving licenses/licences” is another possible way of sidestepping the issue, whatever it is.

[ Edited: 19 March 2007 01:49 PM by lionello ]
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Posted: 19 March 2007 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A sign outside a nearby delivery company says: CDL Drivers Wanted. That expands to Commercial Driver’s License Drivers Wanted.
Sadly, I don’t know how to drive a license.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 04:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Love is too busy....

Ah, but lionello, love is a darn good multitasker! ;-)

Seriously, though, the context really doesn’t matter. I’ve needed to write about driver(’)s(’) in several contexts, and can’t always use work-arounds without getting ridiculously awkward constructions. Google results favor driver’s licenses, but not with such a significant margin that I’m willing to bow to popular opinion on the matter. On the other hand, I agree with most folks here that drivers’ licenses is more logical. Of course what I’d really like is a nice, authoritative style guide ruling. In the meantime, I’ve searched my own website and found I’ve chosen ess-apostrophe four times and apostrophe-ess only once, so I’m going to go with my own past judgement for the sake of personal consistency.

“Driving licenses/licences” doesn’t work for me because I don’t want to sidestep the issue; I want to be able to use the term as it is commonly used in speech, where pesky apostrophes are inaudible and untroublesome. My audience often includes people with limited English proficiency, so simplicity is a high priority.

Thanks, everyone, for your replies. If anyone else has brilliant insights, I’d love (there goes that dough again) to see them!

~Valerie

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The universe moves by loyalty.
Righteousness and unrighteousness move material things,
not matter pushing matter....
Loyalty makes plants grow.
Love makes dough rise.
(Doug Jones)

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Posted: 19 March 2007 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Driver’s licenses is just plain wrong if you’re referring to more than one driver, as has been said.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Alas, Eliza..."just plain wrong” doesn’t always prevent common usage from being stylistically codified!

~Valerie

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The universe moves by loyalty.
Righteousness and unrighteousness move material things,
not matter pushing matter....
Loyalty makes plants grow.
Love makes dough rise.
(Doug Jones)

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Posted: 19 March 2007 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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My CDL (California) avoids the problem and says boldly at the top: DRIVER LICENSE.

Context, no matter how you slice it, is everything. If you have identified a multiplicity of drivers, then you pretty much are obligated to use the plural, “drivers’ licences”.  If you have already stipulated that the singular is “driver’s license” and you’re focusing on the object only then you’re probably free to do whatever you want, but IMHO in that phrase, “driver’s” is something like a nounal adjective and does not require a plural. Isn’t sort of like “attorneys general”? (Yes, I realize “general” is strictly an adjective there, but I had to do something to keep the ball rolling.)

..."just plain wrong” doesn’t always prevent common usage from being stylistically codified!

And if you’re just concerned about style why worry about correctness? I’d do it this way:

“Lately the State of Columbia has been handing out driver’s licenses to anybody with a three-cent-stamped, self-addressed envelope.”

“Lately the State of Columbia has been revoking tens of thousands of drivers’ licenses for overdue library fines exceeding $2.25.”

[ Edited: 19 March 2007 05:10 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 19 March 2007 06:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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And if you’re just concerned about style why worry about correctness?

Sometimes, for editors, standard style guidelines must outweigh correctness. It’s a matter of which authority supercedes. For instance, although I belive “Web site” is more correct, the style guide I inherited at my workplace dictates “website,” so I have to follow that as a matter of consistency. We editors are servants, not masters. Not yet, at least. Someday we will take over the world, and then woe betide all misspellers and grammatical nincompoops! Mwahahahaha!

~Valerie, who plans to begin her quest for global domination by catching up with her housework

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The universe moves by loyalty.
Righteousness and unrighteousness move material things,
not matter pushing matter....
Loyalty makes plants grow.
Love makes dough rise.
(Doug Jones)

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Posted: 19 March 2007 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Good luck with your plans for global domination. As for myself, so far this evening I’ve managed to subjugate a cheese omelette absolutely to my implacable will and further have totally crushed the opposition of a few tortilla chips like ramparts into dust. However, the housework remains unassailed and inviolate before the very gravitas of my immutable presence ... and therefore appears intractactable.

Anyway, I still suggest that neither phrase covers all contingencies. If this topic hasn’t already been driven into the ground and then some, please try interchanging the two versions in the sentences I’ve offered and see if they’re equally workable.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 07:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Actually I think the first of your sentences, since it uses the singular “anybody,” would be better rendered, “Lately the State of Columbia has been handing out a driver’s license to anybody with a three-cent-stamped, self-addressed envelope.”

As for the world, I plan to dominate it the old-fashioned way: by inheriting it. ;-)

~Valerie

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The universe moves by loyalty.
Righteousness and unrighteousness move material things,
not matter pushing matter....
Loyalty makes plants grow.
Love makes dough rise.
(Doug Jones)

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Posted: 19 March 2007 08:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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You may be right about the singular. In fact you are. 

“Lately the State of Columbia has been handing out drivers’ licenses to all applicants who supply a three-cent-stamped, self-addressed envelope.”

Still don’t like it.

“The county faire has a policy of giving out free lime popsicles to all children under the age of 16 wearing green on St. Paddy’s Day who ask for one.”

“The county faire has a policy of giving out one free lime popsicle to all children under the age of 16 wearing green on St. Paddy’s Day who ask for one.”

Indeed, “each child ... who asks for one” is better. And you’d have to say “… one driver’s license to each applicant who ...”

Just where and how do you intend to use “drivers’ licenses” instead of “driver’s licenses” since you seemed to have said that was your preference? Hmmmm.... I’m getting confused. I believe I see a toehold to be gained on the north side of Dish Mountain but it’s a fairly steep climb…

At least your form of inheritance avoids state and federal taxes. ;-)

[ Edited: 19 March 2007 08:24 PM by foolscap ]
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Posted: 19 March 2007 09:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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OK, I’m getting a little obsessive about this, probably because I’ve got a visitor showing up from overseas tomorrow and instead of cleaning the house on the weekend I installed my ex’s water heater twice and spent half a day analyzing an idiotic electrical problem at my house (ever heard of a secondary fuse panel? Duh!) So what better way to waste time than this?

First: Is there something about the possessive you find extraordinary? Well, possibly. You do say “dog days afternoon” or “dog days afternoons” or “dog’s days afternoon” but you do NOT say “dogs’ days afternoons” under any circumstances. You do say “busman’s holiday” or “busman’s holidays” but you do not say “busmen’s holidays” unless you are a union organizer.  Second: so please explain yourself further or else I’m going to have to resort to obsessing over my job and my housework, which is really too much to ask of me.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 10:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I’m editing something right now that requires me to make a call on it

If it’s your choice, then do what’s right.  If it’s your editor’s, do what’s write.

As for global domination, I think I’d start working on the small things and work up to the bigger things like housework.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 02:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Kyriosity - 19 March 2007 06:16 PM

Someday we will take over the world, and then woe betide all misspellers and grammatical nincompoops! Mwahahahaha!

Just so I can be prepared for when the Big Day comes, will ye be restoring the nominative ye in the second person plural pronoun and eliminating the singular use af plural pronouns in the second person?

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Posted: 20 March 2007 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Surely “driver’s licences” is perfectly correct and logical? Each person has a driver’s licence which licenses him or her alone - not a drivers’ licence. Ten individual drivers should have ten driver’s licences between them.

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