Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Posted: 07 September 2013 05:13 PM   [ Ignore ]
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This is the full name of a recent movie.

Is this use of the apostrophe consistent with modern guidellines?

Note that Lee Daniels is the name of the director.

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Posted: 07 September 2013 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes.  There is variation in practice, but as noted in MWDEU, it is common to use the apostrophe alone with multisyllabic names ending with /s/ or /z/.

[ Edited: 07 September 2013 05:49 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 07 September 2013 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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OP Tipping - 07 September 2013 05:13 PM

This is the full name of a recent movie.

Is this use of the apostrophe consistent with modern guidellines?

Note that Lee Daniels is the name of the director.

Perhaps we find ourselves in an alternate universe? [guidellines]

I do n’t think that this use of the “‘“ is consistent with “modern guidellines”

but what of the etymology of “apostrophe” itself?

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Posted: 07 September 2013 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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See, for instance, http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/apostrophe

With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud:

He joined Charles’s army in 1642.
Dickens’s novels provide a wonderful insight into Victorian England.
Thomas’s brother was injured in the accident.

Note that there are some exceptions to this rule, especially in names of places or organizations, for example:

St Thomas’ Hospital

...

With personal names that end in -s but are not spoken with an extra s: just add an apostrophe after the -s:

The court dismissed Bridges’ appeal.
Connors’ finest performance was in 1991.

(I personally would omit the final s in Dickens’s, both in pronouncing it and writing it.)

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Posted: 07 September 2013 06:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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but what of the etymology of “apostrophe” itself?

A nice concise one from the World English Dictionary:

from Late Latin, from Greek apostrophos mark of elision, from apostrephein to turn away

One might add “via French” to that “from late Latin”.

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Posted: 07 September 2013 06:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It’s common enough that I’d call it a style choice.

Garner doesn’t mention the topic, which is surprising.

MWDEU calls it “the chief variation” regarding apostrophe use, and says “some writers” do it.

The Cambridge Guide to English Usage gives the most explication of the issue. It outlines four different practices:
1) Literary, classical, and religious names get the apostrophe only, all others apostrophe s (e.g., Keats’ and Jones’s)
2) As above, except only names of more than one syllable get the apostrophe s (e.g., Menzies’s, Keats’s, and Jesus’)
3) Any name ending in a “long ‘eez’ sound” uses an apostrophe only (e.g., Jones’s and Xerxes’)
4) Any name whose possessive is pronounced with the same number of syllables as the plain form takes only the apostrophe (the guide points out that this one is the most problematic, as pronunciation varies)

Pullum and Huddleston are most on point. They say, “there is a good deal of variation here and it is not possible to give hard and fast rules. The bare genitive [i.e., apostrophe only] is most widely used with classical, religious, and literary names [...]. Elsewhere it is normally restricted to names pronounced with a voiced /z/ rather than voiceless /s/ [...]. Examples like Ross’ are sometimes attested but they are of questionable acceptability; Ross’s is the normal form, and in speech the /iz/ is required.” Simply substitute Daniels for Ross in their example.

Editing Canadian English says, “there is little agreement in the treatment of the possessive of proper nouns ending in a sounded s or z.” [This book also notes that many corporate names in Canada omit the apostrophe where their name would traditionally have it in order to comply with Quebec’s language laws, which forbid the apostrophe in such cases. That of course isn’t relevant to the topic at hand, but it’s very Canadian.]

It violates MLA style.

It violates Chicago style.

It violates Oxford style.

It violates Australian government style.

In summary, there doesn’t appear to be any regional variation in the practice. It’s muddled everywhere that English is written. The only consistency seems to be found among professional publishing houses, who would require Daniels’s Butler. But movie studios aren’t obliged to follow the follow the style manuals of publishers.

In the case of movie titles, I would suspect that the graphic artists designing the posters and ads have more influence on the subject than the copy editors. The choice will be to go with whatever looks cleanest and best, rather than traditional editorial rules or how the words are pronounced.

[ Edited: 08 September 2013 08:13 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 08 September 2013 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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but what of the etymology of “apostrophe” itself?

As I said here, it should historically be said with three syllables ("apostroff"), and it is odd that purists don’t complain about the vulgar four-syllable pronunciation.

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