Legislating Grammar

This made me laugh. The Arkansas state House passed a bill declaring how to spell the possessive form of Arkansas.

Everyone, third grade on, knows that, to make a noun possessive, you add 's - unless the word ends in s, in which case you just add an apostrophe. For example, "The listener's ears were attentive to Jesus' words." Easy, no?

Well, Arkansas disagrees.

According to this bill, when we are discussing the schools of Arkansas, the state house of Arkansas, or anything else belonging to Arkansas, the proper possessive form is "Arkansas's schools" or "Arkansas's state house." That's right, an 's after a word ending in s. It's making English teachers roll over in their graves.

Though, I do have to say, I can see the argument for it. Although Arkansas ends in an s, it does not end in an s-sound, potentially justifying the 's ending. We say "an hour" although hour doesn't start with a vowel, but does start with a vowel sound. If this Arkansas situation fall under the same "sounds-like" rules, I can see where they're coming from.


Matt said...

On a tangent, it's also difficult knowing what to do with the plural of a name ending in -y. Are we the Moberlys, the Moberlies, or the Moberly family? I've done all three without thinking about it. That also goes for names ending in -i.

Joanna said...

I'd say Moberlys, though Moberlies is cute.

According to Wikipedia:
The -ies rule: nouns ending in a y preceded by a consonant drop the y and add -ies (pronounced [iz]):
cherry cherries
lady ladies

Note, however, that proper nouns (particularly those for people or places) ending in a y preceded by a consonant form their plurals regularly:
Germany/Germanys (as in The two Germanys were unified in 1990; this rule is not commonly adhered to as several book titles show, and Sicilies rather than Sicilys is the standard plural of Sicily)
Harry/Harrys (as in There are three Harrys in our office)

As for the -i thing... I was trying to think of words that end in i and how to pluralize them... safaris, delis, saris. Just add an S.

sopeak & zay said...

Haha, that's funny. Those crazy Arkansas people always have to have their own way of doing things. Although I do understand, given that Illinois ends in an s but it's not pronounced until you make it plural, in which case it becomes Illinois'. You don't see us making a law about it though. :-P
(this is Sopeak btw)


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