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“driver’s licenses” or “drivers’ licenses”? 
Posted: 20 March 2007 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Foolscap,

Actually I prefer “drivers’ licences,” as it seems to be the more logical construction.

Excellent: “busman’s holidays” vs. “busmen’s holidays” is the first parallel construction we’ve come up with. Google is about 10:1 in favor of the first construction. What’s everybody’s opinion on that one?

And definitely not any taxes of any sort!

Eliza,

Re right/write...cute! And I think you may be on to something re working up to housework. Should I start with solving problems in the Middle East? ;-)

Faldage,

The second person plural is y’all. Deal with it. ;-)

Syntinen Laulu,

Some of us are uneasy with “driver’s licenses” because it indicates there are multiple licenses, but only one driver. If you had ten children, you would not speak of their collective playthings as “child’s toys,” but “children’s toys,” right?

~Valerie

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Posted: 20 March 2007 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Myridon - 19 March 2007 02:08 PM

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.

This is a splendid example of how initialisms work in Real English, and also of how this is more clear and concise than the equivalent in the Imaginary English of the purists.

In Real English, any qualified candidate for the position knows what “CDL driver” means, and it is admirably concise.  How would we express the same thought in Imaginary English?  “Commercially licensed drivers wanted” doesn’t work.  The driver isn’t commercially licensed.  He is licensed to drive a commercial vehicle.  So we need something like “drivers licensed to drive commercial vehicles wanted”.  The repeititon of “drive” is ineligant, so perhaps “persons licensed to drive commercial vehicles wanted”.  This is much longer than the Real English version, and certainly no clearer, but it is satisfactory to the most punctilious purist.

Persons licensed to drive commercial vehicles are not, as a class, known for being punctilious purists with regard to English usage, so I suspect that the deliver company advertising for drivers made a wise choice in eschewing Imaginary English in favor of Real English.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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How about “drivers with CDLs”? Just one more word, and not too terribly inelegant, I’d say.

The joy of being an editor is to find the narrow path of purity and elegance...grammatical goodness, truth, and beauty.

One of my writers has occasional need to discuss people with limited English proficieny. I’m OK with using “LEP” as shorthand, but she tried “LEP people” on me, and I put my foot down. Fortunately, she’s one who puts great faith in my judgment and doesn’t fight me on stuff like that. Would you have let “LEP people” go?

~Valerie

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Loyalty makes plants grow.
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Posted: 20 March 2007 06:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I’d go with “driver’s licenses.” The license is granted to an individual, not shared communally. It is “men’s/boys’ bathrooms” because each room is shared by multiple males, but each license is possessed by only one driver and therefore multiple instances should be expressed “driver’s licenses.”

But I wouldn’t fall on my sword over this. I don’t have a big problem with “drivers’ licenses.” If house style called for the double plural, I would go with it.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 06:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Dave Wilton - 20 March 2007 06:34 AM

I’d go with “driver’s licenses.” The license is granted to an individual, not shared communally. It is “men’s/boys’ bathrooms” because each room is shared by multiple males, but each license is possessed by only one driver and therefore multiple instances should be expressed “driver’s licenses.”

But I wouldn’t fall on my sword over this. I don’t have a big problem with “drivers’ licenses.” If house style called for the double plural, I would go with it.

Not sure I’m following you. Yes, one license is granted to an individual driver, but multiple licenses are granted to multiple drivers. If each individual girl has a doll, don’t we speak of the “girls’ dolls,” not the “girl’s dolls”? ‘Splain me better, please.

~Valerie

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Posted: 20 March 2007 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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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.

Syntinen is right (as is Dave Wilton: “The license is granted to an individual, not shared communally").  It’s always amazing to me how hard people work at trying to prove that perfectly normal expressions can’t be “good English” because they’re not “logical” (according to some strained interpretation).  N.b.: I Am A Professional Editor.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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"Men’s hats” are sold (and worn) individually, not communally, but it would be neither idiomatic nor logical to call them “man’s hats”.

I Am A Professional Editor Too, if it comes to that, though it’s not my day job.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Does anyone remember this, from Dr Dobb’s Portal, 2001 “By Other Means”? Dr Dobb’s Journal

The strange moniker is explained by a taunting anonymous message posted to one of the newly created anti-Delphi newsgroups. Here is the text:

L3T M WRiT3 ViRUZ3Z, L3T M WRiT3 D3ViC3 DRiV3RZ, L3T M WRiT3 WiNDOW M4N4G3RZ; BUT 4Z LONG 4Z TH3Y UZ3 P4ZC4L, TH3Y R ZTiLL 4 BUNCH OF BiG GURRRLZ BLOUZ3Z.

D34TH 2 TH3 D3LPHiLTH SCUM! i H8 TH3M 4LL!

TH3 D3LPHiLTH KiLL3R

The opinions expressed in this message are the author’s own, and do not in any way reflect those of Drommington-Egbarth Small Plastic Containers Inc.

A crack team of computer experts from the FBI tries to prolong this thread in an attempt to track down ‘The Delphilth Killer’. In the unmoderated newsgroup, however, the Feds are unable to prevent it from turning into a rather pointless discussion about where the apostrophe should go in the phrase Big Girl’s Blouses.

Long have I wondered, and now, thanks to this thread, I know.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Personally, I think the case of a purely metaphorical possessor and possession in a stock expression should be handled differently from cases in which these items are are real and literal.  So I’d go for “big girl’s blouses” and “busman’s holidays” (assuming we were’t talking about real blouses of real girls and real holidays taken by real busmen” but “men’s hats” and “drivers’ licenses”.

However, I won’t patronizingly imply that these choices are so obviously correct that anyone who disagrees is performing an amazing exercise in strained logic.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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languagehat - 20 March 2007 09:42 AM

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.

Syntinen is right (as is Dave Wilton: “The license is granted to an individual, not shared communally").  It’s always amazing to me how hard people work at trying to prove that perfectly normal expressions can’t be “good English” because they’re not “logical” (according to some strained interpretation).  N.b.: I Am A Professional Editor.

But how is your reasoning less strained? Of course a license is granted to an individual. The husband of my supervisor (who made the final call for “drivers’ licenses,” so the point is now academic) has a regular driver’s license and a CDL. He has driver’s licenses. When writing about the licenses of a group of people, wouldn’t saying drivers’ licenses distinguish from my colleague’s husband’s situation?

I am sure that you all three have a valid point, and that I’m just being too dense to get it, so try again, if you would be so kind, to ‘splain it clearer to me.

~Valerie, who knows that just because She Is A Professional Editor don’t mean she’s perfect

[ Edited: 20 March 2007 01:49 PM by Kyriosity ]
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Posted: 20 March 2007 01:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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The problem could be avoided by adopting the British usage, which is driving licence.

If that’s the coward’s way out, I’d go for driver’s licenses and big girls’ blouses. I’ve never been sure, though, with the latter expression (which always struck me as a trifle bizarre), whether it was the girl(s) or the blouse(s) that were meant to be big. Of course, one would entail the other, but my hunch is that the expression was originally intended to refer to the blouse, given the analogy of similar expressions such as ‘you’re just a big (Jessie, crybaby, etc.)’. After all, there’s nothing particularly more insulting about being compared to the blouse of a big girl than that of a smaller one. But I suspect most people nowadays assume that it’s the girl who’s big.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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I thought for a moment I’d stumbled into alt.fetish (again) until I found this:

Big Girl’s Blouse

Which includes a reference to the uncomfortable “all mouth and trousers” I believe Eliza referred to recently but which was on a high altitude cranial trajectory for me.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 03:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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If each individual girl has a doll, don’t we speak of the “girls’ dolls,” not the “girl’s dolls”? ‘Splain me better, please.

This is a different situation. The “driver’s” is indicating the type of license, not the number in question. The correct corollary would be “Barbie and other girl’s dolls.”

Doctor T has a point about “men’s hats” though. So I’m revising my position slightly to state that this is one of the myriad of cases where language is not logical.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Dave Wilton - 20 March 2007 03:29 PM

This is a different situation. The “driver’s” is indicating the type of license, not the number in question.

OK, I think I’m getting a little clearer here. It’s not exactly a possessive...more of a descriptor. Am I getting warmer?

Just for fun, I thought I’d see what stores call their clothing departments, which is perhaps another parallel construction. Some results (from online...I wonder if store signage is different):

Sears: Womens, Mens, Juniors, Girls, Boys
J.C. Penney: Women, Men, Kids + Baby
Macy’s: Women, Men, Juniors, Kids
Nordstrom: Women, Men, Juniors, Baby & Kids
Lord and Taylor: Apparel for Her, Men’s, Kids
Nieman Marcus: Apparel for Her, Men’s & Electronics (ha!), Kids’ World
Wal-Mart: Women (but “Women’s Plus"), Men (but “Men’s Big and Tall"), Juniors, Boys, Girls, Baby
K-Mart: Womens, Mens, Juniors, Girl’s, Boy’s
Kohl’s: Women’s, Men’s, Juniors’, Kids’
Dillard’s: Women, Men, Juniors, Children
Target: Women, Men, Baby, Kids

“Womens” and “Mens” with no apostrophe is incoherent. K-Mart’s inconsistency is the worst. Kohl’s gets it right, I think.

~Valerie

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Love makes dough rise.
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Posted: 20 March 2007 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Well, I may have been a tad magisterial in my previous response, but still, it seems to me that the singular is driver’s license and the plural is formed by adding an -s, as per usual in English: driver’s licenses.  (Merriam-Webster, for instance, gives no indication of any other plural, leaving one to presume the regular plural is formed.) It furthermore seems to me that the desire to find some other plural is driven by an inappropriate concern for abstract logic, which consorts ill with normal language use.  But I apologize to anyone who was offended by what could be perceived as an overly supercilious tone.

[Edited to add itals.]

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