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  #1  
Old 04-21-2006, 03:27 PM
Kevlaur Kevlaur is offline
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Apostrophe rule concerning words ending in the letter s for ownership?

While reading a post concerning the apocryphal books of the
Bible, I began wondering why there was an apostrophe
s after Jesus. Jesus's books, for example.

Isn't it Jesus' books? Or, do both work?

I have also seen a lot of the use of the word insure
to mean ensure.

Are the rules changing? Were they never in effect?
Should that be 'in affect'? Or, are we just getting
lazier and letting sleeping dogs' lie... Gotcha...

Kevlaur
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  #2  
Old 04-21-2006, 03:38 PM
Sternvogel Sternvogel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevlaur
While reading a post concerning the apocryphal books of the
Bible, I began wondering why there was an apostrophe
s after Jesus. Jesus's books, for example.

Isn't it Jesus' books? Or, do both work?
Generally, the rule is to add the 's even after a word ending in s: Charles's book, Ms. Adams's house.

However, as this page states:

Quote:
Some words sound awkward when an apostrophe 's' is added:

Jesus's disciples.

The accepted form here is to just use the 's' apostrophe:

Jesus' disciples.

N.B. This only applies to names of Biblical or historical significance e.g. Jesus, Moses, Zeus, Demosthenes, Ramses ... the rest of us whack in the apostrophe and add an 's.'

Moses' followers, Zeus' priests, Demosthenes' teachings, Ramses' pyramid
Another example: Achilles' heel.
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  #3  
Old 04-21-2006, 03:51 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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There are no "rules". Well, sure, there are book full of them, but none of them agree, and none of them are "official". There are "usages". Both usages are more or less common.
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  #4  
Old 04-21-2006, 04:00 PM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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This question gets asked so often, maybe it should qualify as a "sticky."
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  #5  
Old 04-21-2006, 04:14 PM
seosamh seosamh is offline
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It would help if there was some consistency. I commute to a station called St James's Park (that's in London, England, by the way). Some of the station signs say St James's Park but others say St James' Park.

For the records, I and the sort of bloke who always adds an apostrophe s for possession where the word ends in s or z or x.
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  #6  
Old 04-21-2006, 04:22 PM
seosamh seosamh is offline
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Or maybe I AM the sort of bloke . . . .
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  #7  
Old 04-21-2006, 05:53 PM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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The only reasonable rule of thumb I've heard is that you should spell it the way you pronounce it. If you pronounce the extra "s" then you should add it.

I've no idea how "proper" this is, but at least it makes sense (to me).
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  #8  
Old 04-21-2006, 06:21 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Most people go by William Strunk's The Elements of Style (later updated by E. B. White and known to those in the writing trade as "Strunk and White." Strunk's original text is at Bartleby.com; on this issue, White only added some elaboration.
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  #9  
Old 04-21-2006, 06:27 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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I question why it's so "awkward" to have three sibilants in a row, even when separated by vowels, to the point where people feel the need to deform English grammar and make it look Chinese or Navajo. These languages don't have a genitive or possessive form; they indicate the possessive by simple apposition. Thus in Chinese syntax to express the meaning "the thought of Chairman Mao" they simply say "Chairman Mao thought." Not "Chairman Mao's thought." If I hear someone say "Jesus beatitudes" I feel like I'm hearing someone whose first language is Chinese.

I don't see any problem with pronouncing three sibilants in a row as long as they have vowels in between to separate them. Unless it makes people feel uncomfortable to hiss like air escaping from a leaky tire. But I'm for always using the possessive -'s regardless of the name's final consonant.
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  #10  
Old 04-21-2006, 07:04 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is offline
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I was told that it would be Jesus's, because Jesus' implies that the word Jesus is plural-you only put the apostrophe last if you're talking about a collective, like say, oh, my parents' house.
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  #11  
Old 04-22-2006, 01:01 AM
AWB AWB is offline
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Then comes the question: what if the word ends in a double "s"? For example, "Courteney Cox played Monica, Ross's sister, on 'Friends'."

Is the triple "s" a problem?
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  #12  
Old 04-22-2006, 06:38 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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I was talking about phonetic sounds, not written letters. "Ross's" contains only two sibilant sounds, and only one of those is actually [s]. There's a schwa vowel separating them.
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  #13  
Old 04-22-2006, 08:02 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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I love typing "author Andrew Vachss's book." Since "Vachss" is pronounced "Vax," the triple "s" is correct.
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  #14  
Old 04-22-2006, 04:37 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AWB
Then comes the question: what if the word ends in a double "s"? For example, "Courteney Cox played Monica, Ross's sister, on 'Friends'."

Is the triple "s" a problem?
Oh, but it gets even more fun if you dip into AP Style (which, admittedly, has some pretty assinine rules). This one deals with common noun possessives, though, which is a little different than your example, but does address the triple "s" issue:

Quote:
SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS ENDING IN S: Add 's unless the next word begins with s:[i]the hostess's invitation, the hostess' seat; the witness's answer, the witness' story.
Of course, AP's rules on proper nouns are different too. They advocate adding a simple apostrophe after singular proper names ending in "s."
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  #15  
Old 04-22-2006, 09:56 PM
Lama Pacos Lama Pacos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna
I don't see any problem with pronouncing three sibilants in a row as long as they have vowels in between to separate them. Unless it makes people feel uncomfortable to hiss like air escaping from a leaky tire. But I'm for always using the possessive -'s regardless of the name's final consonant.
Does anyone actually pronounce posessives without the final sibilant? I write s-final possessives with only the apostrophe, but I pronounce them as expected. I've never heard anyone say them otherwise.
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  #16  
Old 04-22-2006, 09:59 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Lama Pacos, I first noticed this on "The Jezebel Spirit" from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Brian Eno and David Byrne. It included an actual recording of a preacher with perhaps a Southern accent performing an exorcism. I heard him saying "Out! In Jesus name." No audible trace of a possessive. It looks Chinese like that.
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  #17  
Old 04-22-2006, 10:01 PM
Excalibre Excalibre is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck
Most people go by William Strunk's The Elements of Style (later updated by E. B. White and known to those in the writing trade as "Strunk and White." Strunk's original text is at Bartleby.com; on this issue, White only added some elaboration.
"Elaboration" like altering Strunk's writing to conform to the wholly imaginary rule he added about "that" and "which". That takes a certain amount of balls, you know? He takes his old mentor's style guide and then decides that the dude's writing just isn't up to snuff and corrects it . . .

Ahh, prescriptivists . . . y'all are a funny bunch . . .

Anyway, I say "Jesus's", which leads me to believe that at least in many dialects that form is perfectly grammatical. So I maintain that my writing ought to reflect that. There's lots of people who have purported to create rules for which singulars ending in sibilants should take "-'s" and which should take a bare apostrophe, but as pointed out above, those rules tend to differ substantially from one another.
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  #18  
Old 04-22-2006, 10:06 PM
Nic2004 Nic2004 is offline
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So if my last name were to end in S, as in Sis then
Singular is Sis
Singular Possesive is Sis'
Plural Possesive is Sis's

Am I on the right track here or back asswards?
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  #19  
Old 04-22-2006, 11:49 PM
Zoe Zoe is offline
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Almost all singular possessives are formed by adding 's. There are exceptions made for some figures in the Bible and some names of historical significance: Jesus' Moses' Brutus' Cassius'

However, if one of my students had chosen to form the singular possessive of these names by adding 's, I would not have counted it as incorrect.
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  #20  
Old 04-22-2006, 11:52 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nic2004
So if my last name were to end in S, as in Sis then
Singular is Sis
Singular Possesive is Sis'
Plural Possesive is Sis's

Am I on the right track here or back asswards?
Not quite.

Using the most common rules quoted (and not the AP Style rules I cited earlier):

Singular: Sis
S Possessive: Sis's
P Possesive: The Sises' family vaction
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  #21  
Old 04-22-2006, 11:55 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoe
Almost all singular possessives are formed by adding 's. There are exceptions made for some figures in the Bible and some names of historical significance: Jesus' Moses' Brutus' Cassius'

However, if one of my students had chosen to form the singular possessive of these names by adding 's, I would not have counted it as incorrect.
Another common exception to the singular possessive rule is in expressions like
for goodness' sake, concsience' sake, and appearance' sake.
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  #22  
Old 04-23-2006, 02:45 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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I don't get why the -'s would be deleted from writing, but still retained in pronunciation. I thought it was the other way around: Some people chose to stop pronouncing it, which was reflected in the spelling.
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  #23  
Old 04-23-2006, 07:01 AM
seosamh seosamh is offline
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I'd forgotten St Thomas' Hospital in London - it's always pronounced "Thomas-iz" (St James's Park is always "James-iz" as well).
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  #24  
Old 04-23-2006, 12:24 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna
I don't get why the -'s would be deleted from writing, but still retained in pronunciation. I thought it was the other way around: Some people chose to stop pronouncing it, which was reflected in the spelling.
It's a good question, but I, like Lama Pacos have never heard anyone leave off the possessive sibalant. In the law office I worked at, most of the lawyers prefered to use the apostrophe-s-less spelling for the possessive of names like "James" and "Jones." They always pronounced the extra s, though. And, like mentioned above, certain stylebooks, like The Associated Press Stylebook, require this sort of spelling. Why it's deleted in writing and retained in pronunciation, who knows? For AP, the argument would probably be issues of space. One less letter. Same with their asinine "waitress' seat" contruction. (What's wrong with "waitress's seat" other than there being four esses in a row?)
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  #25  
Old 04-23-2006, 02:30 PM
MetroGnome MetroGnome is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna
Thus in Chinese syntax to express the meaning "the thought of Chairman Mao" they simply say "Chairman Mao thought." Not "Chairman Mao's thought." If I hear someone say "Jesus beatitudes" I feel like I'm hearing someone whose first language is Chinese.
Hmm. From my experience with Chinese as my first language, possession is indicated with the article "de" (or "di" in certain situations) much like the Japanese use of "no", in the form of subject "de" object. As a direct inverse to the above example, my mother still can't get used to the English syntax of possession, so when she's speaking English, she'll drop the "s" and wedge in a de like, "I think MetroGnome de cell phone is broken because HE NEVER CALL* ME." I can see how the de can be discounted as a transitive "um" or "duh" when heard by the casual ear.

For the specific example of ""the thought of Chairman Mao" being read/heard as "Chairman Mao thought", it could just be a product of nuances being lost in translation. Rather than speaking of the thoughts as an object of the subject (Chairman Mao), perhaps "Chairman Mao thought" is being used as the subject as a whole, analogous to saying "Maoist Thought".

I always thought English was more or less unique in having this grammatical shortcut to indicate possession, and everyone else had to formally pair the subject and object with their version of "of".

* The only conjugation my mother is interested in is the kind that will get her some grandkids. Actually she'll drop the "S" at the end of just about anything since she's so used to Mandarin where it's rare to end anything with a hard consonant.
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  #26  
Old 04-23-2006, 06:30 PM
Excalibre Excalibre is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MetroGnome
I always thought English was more or less unique in having this grammatical shortcut to indicate possession, and everyone else had to formally pair the subject and object with their version of "of".
Except that the Chinese construction is almost exactly the same, as you've summarized above! Though obviously de is used more broadly than 's is in English, you can take an English possessive like "Chairman Mao's hat" and translate it exactly word for word to "Mao Zhuxi de maozi". De works exactly like 's in those two sentences.

Plenty of languages, incidentally, don't need "of" to mark possession. The English clitic 's is a descendent of the Old English system of cases. Many languages with case systems use one of them to indicate possession. So in Latin, liber pueri ("[the] boy's book") could be glossed as "book boy's"; the fact that the boy is the possessor is indicated by the fact that puer is in the genitive case and has the -i ending. In some languages, as indicated by Johanna above (though Chinese is not among them, dear) you simply juxtapose two items to indicate possession; context probably has to play a slightly greater roll in ironing out these sorts of relations in languages that allow that kind of thing.

Anyway, don't generalize from very small examples to assume something is universal. The fact that some languages use some translation of "of" to indicate possession doesn't remotely indicate that it's a universal thing.
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  #27  
Old 04-24-2006, 02:40 PM
Kevlaur Kevlaur is offline
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English is funny. Is it easier to learn than Chinese? Or, does English just have
more rules?

And, isn't Spanish backwards of Chinese? Vasco DE Gamo, libro de Kevlaur?

So, no comments on insure vs. ensure?

Oh, and thanks for the 'clarification'! I wonder if it's ('s vice s') a colloquial thing in the States?
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  #28  
Old 04-24-2006, 03:18 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Here are some prior threads relating to the OP, as well as a post of my own based on some web research. Bottom line is, exactly as DrDeth suggests, there lots of rules, all different.
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  #29  
Old 04-24-2006, 03:24 PM
Asimovian Asimovian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna
Lama Pacos, I first noticed this on "The Jezebel Spirit" from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Brian Eno and David Byrne. It included an actual recording of a preacher with perhaps a Southern accent performing an exorcism. I heard him saying "Out! In Jesus name." No audible trace of a possessive. It looks Chinese like that.
Wow...that took me back. Having grown up in the Catholic Church, I always heard "In Jesus' name we pray" as opposed to "Jesus-iz name." The latter sounds very awkward to me.
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  #30  
Old 04-24-2006, 03:48 PM
gigi gigi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell
Not quite.

Using the most common rules quoted (and not the AP Style rules I cited earlier):

Singular: Sis
S Possessive: Sis's
P Possesive: The Sises' family vaction
But if it is your sisters, and you call them both sis:

sis
sis's dress
my sisses' dresses

??
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  #31  
Old 04-24-2006, 03:54 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gigi
But if it is your sisters, and you call them both sis:

sis
sis's dress
my sisses' dresses

??
Yes.
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  #32  
Old 04-24-2006, 10:05 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gigi
sis
sis's dress
my sisses' dresses
You sound like you're playing maracas.
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  #33  
Old 04-24-2006, 10:27 PM
TimeWinder TimeWinder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevlaur
So, no comments on insure vs. ensure?
Dictionary.com says they can mean the same thing (as can "assure"). Check out the usage note here for some more info.

Note that only the OP's case is common (using "insure" to mean "ensure"), not the other way around, at least here in the states.
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