Re: Oops!

Subject: Re: Oops!
From: Joanna Sheldon <cjs10 -at- CORNELL -dot- EDU>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 22:40:08 -0500

>According to Strunk and White, the correct way to create a possessive
>out of a proper noun ending in "s" is with "'s" (e.g., Gwen Barnes's)
>not simply "'" as I wrote.

>The wet noodle bearers have come and gone and my back is appropriately
>starchy. Sister Mary Rose and her Ruler of Death evidently did not
>teach me as much grammar as I thought! <g>

>Bonni Graham

Well, Bonni, you can tell your castigators to eat their noodles, coz they're
oversimplifying. It's true that "Gwen Barnes' house" is no longer used
much, though it used to be (see Henry Fowler). But proper names of more
than one syllable (Dickens, Callas, Ramses) are often written with a simple
apostrophe, and no following "s."

The Chicago Manual of Style says: "How to form the possessive of
polysyllabic personal names ending with the sound of s or z probably
occasions more dissension among writers and editors than any other
orthographic matter open to disagrreement." The C.M. of S. folks do
recommend that such names, when they end in the sound "eez", be written
without the following "s" and the consequent extra syllable. "For reasons
of euphony" -- because it sounds better. You don't, for example, want to be
saying "Euripideezes plays," which is what this spelling: "Euripides's
plays" would imply. So, write: "Euripides' plays." They also mention
that, traditionally, Jesus and Moses take the possessive without the
following "s."

The Chicago Manual points out that some writers (and this is one of them)
prefer to put the following "s" only when the name ends in an "s" sound.
Names ending in a "z" sound would be written without the "s" -- hence:
Hopkins', Myers', Berlioz', but Callas's, Travis's, Willis's. The reason I
follow that form is, it follows the way we (or I) tend to pronounce these
names in the possessive. I say "Mr. Myerz boat" but I say "Ms. Callasses
voice." The U. of Chicago Press prefers that all polysyllabic proper names
be written with the following "s" (aside from the exceptions mentioned). "It
is willing, however, to accept other ways of handling these situations if
they are consistently followed throughout a manuscript." (section 6.30)
(Yes, the editors of the Manual are speaking of the Press in the third person.)


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