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What is the possessive of “Athens”? 
Posted: 25 March 2019 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I just ran across “Athens’s” in a book I’m copyediting, and it didn’t look right to me, so of course I looked it up in the Chicago Manual of Style.  Rule 7.18 says you should add the final -s even for multisyllable names ending in -s: Euripides’s, Xerxes’s.  But!  Rule 7.18 says if nouns are “plural in form, singular in meaning,” you don’t add it: politics’, the United States’, Highland Hills’.  So is “Athens” singular or plural?  It’s plural in Ancient Greek and in many modern languages, such as Russian (Афины), so I think of it as plural, which is why “Athens’s” looked off to me.  I found a Quora discussion on precisely this topic, and I reluctantly agreed with Cristina Neagu that in English Athens is felt to be singular, so I left “Athens’s” in the text.  Just thought this was an interesting enough edge case to bring here for those who are interested in this sort of thing!

(I tried linking Афины to its Wiktionary page, but the characters in the URL screwed it up, so I’m adding the link here, though that won’t work either: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Афины )

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Posted: 25 March 2019 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Here is an interesting discussion re this subject, though I don’t know how reliable the site is:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/378399/was-the-s-in-athens-originally-the-plural-s

Also this:

https://sites.google.com/a/ngs.org/ngs-style-manual/home/P/possessives

[ Edited: 25 March 2019 07:32 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 25 March 2019 03:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That stackexchange.com site isn’t quite right when it comes to Old English. There are two OE texts that name the city. Ælfric in his “Passion of St. Denis” uses the plural athenas. But the translator of Orosius uses the singular athena. (There are several other texts that use the adjective atheniense (Athenian), but you can’t tell the number of the root from that.) Not that how monks who have been dead for a thousand years have anything to say about how English should be used today.

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Posted: 26 March 2019 12:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hastings is also a plural place name. Dover is a (locative) plural. There are a number of other English place names that are plural in their original form, but which no speaker of modern English, or even Middle English, would dream of treating as a plural. As for Athens, I put it to the board: whatever speakers of other languages such as Russian may do, surely nobody here would dream of saying or writing ‘Athens are a beautiful city but they are very hot in August’.  Clearly we do consider it to be singular, just as we consider Hastings and Dover singular, whatever their original meaning and form.

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Posted: 26 March 2019 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Should I delete it from my post, Dave? Or should it be left as an example of a site to avoid?

[ Edited: 26 March 2019 04:20 AM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 26 March 2019 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’d leave it up. I was just pointing out one minor error. (And not really an error, as the plural form did exist.)

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Posted: 27 March 2019 04:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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languagehat - 25 March 2019 07:06 AM

I just ran across “Athens’s” in a book I’m copyediting, and it didn’t look right to me, so of course I looked it up in the Chicago Manual of Style.  Rule 7.18 says you should add the final -s even for multisyllable names ending in -s: Euripides’s, Xerxes’s.  But!  Rule 7.18 says if nouns are “plural in form, singular in meaning,” you don’t add it: politics’, the United States’, Highland Hills’.  So is “Athens” singular or plural?  It’s plural in Ancient Greek and in many modern languages, such as Russian (Афины), so I think of it as plural, which is why “Athens’s” looked off to me.  I found a Quora discussion on precisely this topic, and I reluctantly agreed with Cristina Neagu that in English Athens is felt to be singular, so I left “Athens’s” in the text.  Just thought this was an interesting enough edge case to bring here for those who are interested in this sort of thing!

(I tried linking Афины to its Wiktionary page, but the characters in the URL screwed it up, so I’m adding the link here, though that won’t work either: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Афины )

IDKA anyone else but I say United States’s, Athens’s, Hastings’s etc.

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Posted: 27 March 2019 05:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I probably missed something somewhere, but how is Athens’s pronounced? Is it with a double “s” sound.

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Posted: 27 March 2019 06:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Eyehawk - 27 March 2019 05:07 AM

I probably missed something somewhere, but how is Athens’s pronounced? Is it with a double “s” sound.

As Dr. T taught us/me years ago, the apostrophe in the possessive means that there is something missing. Without the apostrophe, it would be Athenses, thus the double “s” is vocalized.

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Posted: 27 March 2019 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I probably missed something somewhere, but how is Athens’s pronounced? Is it with a double “s” sound.

I think most people would pronounce it the same as Athens, which is another reason I’d prefer to write it “Athens’.”

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Posted: 27 March 2019 08:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Good. The other way would sound funny to me.

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Posted: 27 March 2019 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The editors at Chicago run a Q&A on their website for such style questions. This seems like a good candidate. I’m sure Athens isn’t the only plural-in-original-but-singular-in-English word out there.

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Posted: 27 March 2019 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I probably missed something somewhere, but how is Athens’s pronounced? Is it with a double “s” sound.

I think most people would pronounce it the same as Athens, which is another reason I’d prefer to write it “Athens’.”

Good. The other way would sound funny to me.

But I, conversely, would pronounce it Athenses, and the other way would sound funny to me!

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Posted: 27 March 2019 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Athens’ for me, just as I’ write Dickens’ books. I have noticed in the last few decades though the growing tendency to use an additional s. Just sounds clunky to me.

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Posted: 27 March 2019 09:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 27 March 2019 11:12 AM

I probably missed something somewhere, but how is Athens’s pronounced? Is it with a double “s” sound.

I think most people would pronounce it the same as Athens, which is another reason I’d prefer to write it “Athens’.”

Good. The other way would sound funny to me.

But I, conversely, would pronounce it Athenses, and the other way would sound funny to me!

Yeah, I’m in the SL club on this one. /ˈæθɪnzəz/

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Posted: 27 March 2019 09:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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SL: But I, conversely, would pronounce it Athenses, and the other way would sound funny to me!

The form most familiar to me is the name Jesus. Often, but not always, just the apostrophe Jesus’ notes the possessive. But since I’m in a professional position to use this as a possessive on a regular basis I would and do pronounce Jesus’s or Jesus’ as “Jesuses” as in “Jesus’ birthplace was Bethlehem” and etc. No matter where the apostrophe was placed.

Same with Athens’

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