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Apostrophe
Posted: 02 April 2013 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I just read an article in the Los Angeles Times about apostrophes. It seems tradition has prevailed and proper grammar is a sine quo non for clarity. The letters commenting on the articles--there were two--are also quite pertinent.

The Mid Devon District Council in Southwestern England wanted to eliminate the little apostrophe punctuation mark to avoid confusion, which is ironic, because it would only add too more confusion.

The criticisms from the traditionalists were quite vociferous and they came from as far away as Australia. The local officials succumbed to the grammarians who lambasted the District Council for even coming up with the idea.

The street sign,” St. Pauls Square”, dropped the apostrophe, which violates the rule of using an apostrophe for possessives of singular nouns. One of the letters commenting on the article was very interesting and ironic.  The writer asserted in his letter that “St. Paul’s Square” and “St. Pauls Square” are both wrong. The correct name should be “St Paul Square.” The square is named after St.Paul. It is not his square.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/la-le-0330-saturday-apostrophe-britain-20130330,0,954054.story

I was ignorant of this, for I assumed--as did the people in Southwestern England--that “St. Paul Square” would require the possessive case.  I haven’t investigated the writers claim, but it does make sense.

http://www.latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-british-council-apostrophe-20130328,0,7396379.story

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-britain-apostrophe-20130328,0,7525U227.story?dssReturn

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Posted: 03 April 2013 04:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It makes sense in itself, yes - but, being based on an inaccurate premise, is wrong. The square is not simply ‘named after St Paul’; the building you can see in the accompanying photo is St Paul’s Church, to which nobody would deny its apostrophe. The implication of the name is that the square itself belongs to St Paul, or at least to his parish, and this may historically have been literally true - it may well have been part of the old churchyard, or the glebe land.

And I don’t know about other Rightpondians here, but if I saw ‘St Paul Square’ on a British street map I’d take it for granted that it was a typo for ‘St Paul’s’ or at least ‘St Pauls’.  ‘St Paul Square’ just doesn’t look or sound British.

[ Edited: 03 April 2013 04:40 AM by Syntinen Laulu ]
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Posted: 03 April 2013 04:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I do think that the initiative to change the signs would probably have been a costly waste of time. It’s hard to imagine that the presence of the apostrophes causes much genuine confusion.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Toponyms don’t follow any particular “grammar” rule. (The use of the apostrophe is technically not grammar, but either punctuation or spelling—depending on whether your consider the mark to be punctuation or a substitute for omitted letters.) Toponyms either take or don’t take an apostrophe depending on how that particular name has been traditionally spelled.

For the most part, place names tend to use an apostrophe, but there are plenty of examples of those that buck that trend. So we have Martha’s Vineyard, but Toms River (my hometown); there is St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh.

The US Board on Geographic Names eschews the possessive apostrophe in most of its official names. (Martha’s Vineyard being one of the exceptions.) So for place names in the US that traditionally take the apostrophe, writers have the choice of following local tradition or the official federal naming scheme.

I’d call this one in error. Not because it uses or eschews the apostrophe, but because the writers can’t make up their minds.

[ Edited: 03 April 2013 05:08 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 03 April 2013 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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This is the greatest and best song in the world’s

tribute.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 07:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 03 April 2013 04:37 AM

And I don’t know about other Rightpondians here, but if I saw ‘St Paul Square’ on a British street map I’d take it for granted that it was a typo for ‘St Paul’s’ or at least ‘St Pauls’.  ‘St Paul Square’ just doesn’t look or sound British.

It might be a regional thing. Edinburgh’s New Town has a Saint Andrew Square (Saint in full on the cast street names, not St). The adjacent streets are Saint Andrew Street and Saint David Street.

My own home town of North Berwick also has a St Andrew Street (St not Saint in this case). However, that one appears on old maps (c1900) as St Andrew’s Street. I don’t know when the change happened but it seems to have sufficiently confused the local council that the cast sign at one end of the street was clearly cast as ST ANDREW’S STREET and the unwanted ‘S ground off rather crudely.

Edinburgh also has Princes Street, which never has an apostrophe.

[ Edited: 03 April 2013 07:20 AM by Dr Fortran ]
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Posted: 03 April 2013 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dave has nailed it. There are no rules, only opinions, about placenames.  There are at least a couple of (Queen) Elizabeth Roads and Duke of York Streets, for example.

I can see the poor little apostrophe disappearing some day because the number of people who know how to use it properly are ever decreasing.  Ah, well.  We’ll miss you when you’re gone.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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There is a Saint Pauls Church in Chicago which is so because it is a congregation of German heritage and they kept the German spelling convention of the possessive. I know this because it was my first parish.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Toponyms don’t follow any particular “grammar” rule. (The use of the apostrophe is technically not grammar, but either punctuation or spelling—depending on whether your consider the mark to be punctuation or a substitute for omitted letters.) Toponyms either take or don’t take an apostrophe depending on how that particular name has been traditionally spelled.”

I would think that the apostrophe is unmistakably grammatical, because it identifies the possessive case. Apostrophes are also used for more than showing possession. They are used to show relations of time, value, and measure, for example.  An hour’s delay, the dollar’s decline, a hand’s width etc. In addition apostrophes indicate the subjects of gerund phrases: John hated Robert’s playing all those silly songs.

An example of the indispensability of the apostrophe is in the sentence: The boys’ bicycle. To indicate whether boy is singular or plural it is essential to use the apostrophe and to use it in its proper place.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 09:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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We had a discussion about this some time ago and Dr. T. noted that the apostrophe is there to note that something is missing.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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One way is in order to show the possessive, the other way is to show that something’s been left out. This is called a contraction, the last time I checked.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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There are at least a couple of (Queen) Elizabeth Roads and Duke of York Streets, for example.

Yes, but that’s a different case entirely. Those are simply named in honour of the personage concerned, there was never any idea that they belonged to him or her and therefore there would be no question of using the possessive.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Liza - 03 April 2013 10:17 AM

One way is in order to show the possessive, the other way is to show that something’s been left out. This is called a contraction, the last time I checked.

Even the possessive use of the apostrophe (in the singular at least) is to show that the letter “e” has been left out in Old English. From Online Etym Dict:

In English, the mark often represents loss of -e- in -es, possessive ending. It was being extended to all possessives, whether they ever had an -e- or not, by 18c.

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Posted: 03 April 2013 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The apostrophe always marks a missing letter. In the case of the possessive, the missing letter is an < e >. English marks the possessive by adding an / -εs /, or in some cases with just the phoneme / s /, but the original spelling of the inflection is < -es > in either case.

Since the apostrophe does not exist in speech, it can’t be a grammatical marker—English, like almost all languages, is primarily a spoken language. The argument is how to represent the grammar on the written page, not what the grammar is. No one is saying the possessive doesn’t end in / -εs / or / -s /, only how to write it down. Hence it’s an orthographic question.

there was never any idea that they belonged to him or her and therefore there would be no question of using the possessive.

This is the problem with calling it the “possessive” case, people tend to think that’s all it does. More accurately, it’s the “genitive” case as it does more than denote possession. It is used to denote an association or a specific identification, such as origin (e.g., America’s soldiers), agent of an action (e.g., a mother’s love), or composition (e.g., the violin’s strings), as well as alienable possession (e.g., Dave’s computer) and inalienable possession (Dave’s existence). It doesn’t matter whether the Duke of York once owned the road or not. The fact that the road is associated with the title is enough. But as always, usage, not rules, governs. Toponyms are spelled according to custom.

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Posted: 04 April 2013 05:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Since the apostrophe does not exist in speech, it can’t be a grammatical marker

That’s what I was going to say; thanks for saving me the trouble!

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Posted: 04 April 2013 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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The possessive can even denote the state of “being possessed” (in the non-Exorcist sense): e.g. the slave’s owner.

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