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Apostrophes

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besty
642965.  Thu Dec 03, 2009 2:38 pm Reply with quote

Show 1 talked about 5 place-names in the USA that have apostrophes. I shared this with my brother, who lives in Medford, Oregon, and he replied, "Does Coeur d'Alene, Idaho count?"

I don't see why not, so maybe it's not five but six..?

 
Moosh
642967.  Thu Dec 03, 2009 2:45 pm Reply with quote

It turns out the 5 mentioned on the show were the only place names in the USA with possessive apostrophes. There are others, including Coeur d'Alene, with apostrophes that indicate abbreviation.

Discussed here: post 641491

 
mckeonj
642969.  Thu Dec 03, 2009 3:07 pm Reply with quote

Should not the different kinds of apostrophe have different names?
We seem to have at least two, the posessive and the abbreviative, and possibly a third, the elisive, indicating a dropped H ('enry 'iggins) or a glottal stop (bu'er).
I bet that the India Pale Ale (beloved of linguists) has suitable marks, but the rest of us mortals have to make do with the standard ANSI set on the standard keyboard.
This set does contain two apostrophes; ' and `, of doubtful use.

 
suze
643006.  Thu Dec 03, 2009 5:24 pm Reply with quote

The India Pale Ale (beloved of linguists) only shows pronunciation, so utterly ignores the possessive and abbreviative apostrophes, and only indicates an elided letter through its absence. The voiceless glottal plosive (aka glottal stop) is considered to be a consonant sound and has its very own IPA symbol, /ʔ/ (a question mark without a dot).

IPA does use apostrophes though; they are used to mark an ejective consonant. There are no ejective consonants in the major languages of Europe, but they are found in some languages of the Caucasus, of Africa, and of the Americas. By far the most common such is the velar ejective, /k'/, found in languages such as Georgian, Haida, and Hausa.

 
besty
643252.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 2:30 pm Reply with quote

Ooh, Suze - I love it when you talk all technical...

I did wonder whether Coeur d'Alene, with its French derivation, might not count as an English word.

 
tchrist
643300.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:25 pm Reply with quote

I imagine that they got the idea that there are only five places in the United States with apostrophes in them from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostrophe:
Quote:
Possessives in geographic names

Place names in the United States generally do not use the possessive apostrophe. The United States Board on Geographic Names, which has responsibility for formal naming of municipalities and geographic features, has deprecated the use of possessive apostrophes since 1890. Only five names of natural features in the U.S. are officially spelled with a genitive apostrophe (one example being Martha's Vineyard).

Notice that this is about "natural features", not about counties, cities, towns, or villages. Martha's Vineyard is an island, not a town. Even so, most towns do lack the genitive apostrophe, such as Slades Corners and Abells Corners in Wisconsin's Walworth County, and some like Lee's Ferry in Arizona can be found spelt both ways.

But several dozen do retain their apostrophes, be these genitive or otherwise. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities,_towns,_and_villages_in_the_United_States:
    Alabama: Jacksons' Gap, Gorham's Bluff, Lacey's Spring
    Alaska: Clark's Point, St. Mary's
    Colorado: St. Mary's
    Florida: Sewall's Point
    Hawaii: Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
    Idaho: Coeur d'Alene
    Illinois: O'Fallon
    Maryland: Martin's Additions, Prince George's County, Queen Anne's County
    Michigan: L'Anse
    Mississippi: D'Iberville, D'Lo
    Missouri: Fountain N' Lakes, Lee's Summit, O'Fallon
    Nebraska: O'Neill
    New Hampshire: Drake's Corner, Fogg's Corner, Hart's Location, Monahan's Corner, Welsh's Corner
    North Carolina: Cajah's Mountain, Wilson's Mills
    North Dakorta: Reile's Acres
    Oregon: O'Brien
    South Carolina: Sullivan's Island
    Tennessee: Parker's Crossroads, Thompson's Station
    Texas: Bailey's Prairie, Carl's Corner, Miller's Cove, Morgan's Point, Port O'Connor
    Wisconsin: Land O' Lakes
On the other hand, the highway exit sign on I-70 for St Mary's in Colorado now lists St Marys without the apostrophe for what had been St Mary's Glacier until the ice melted away the last vestiges of any glacier near the St Mary's community. When they removed the now-missing Glacier from the sign, they also removed the genitive apostrophe, leading many to ask who this sainted "Marys" was.

But apostrophes are nothing. To really annoy sign makers we have places like Cañon City in southern Colorado or Peña Boulevard en route to the Denver airport. Even Coeur d'Alene isn't more properly spelt Cœur d'Alène here, but Spanish words with tildes often are.

--tom

 
graytart
643309.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 4:54 pm Reply with quote

Here in Ottawa all of the French names on street signs were redone at great expense, because they were missing their accents (the names were in upper case letters). AFAIK, everywhere else French is written, capital letters go unaccented, but not here, oh nooooooo...

So Orleans is now Orléans even though few people seem to pronounce it that way, not even many Francophone residents.

 
suze
643326.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:31 pm Reply with quote

tchrist, the QI Elves do not use Wikipedia as a single source - indeed, it's more common that Wikipedia uses QI as a single source!

In fact, the main source for the apostrophes fact was the US Geological Survey. The USGS considers that the forms of names that it uses are by definition correct and official, and it does not allow possessive apostrophes other than in the five specified exceptions to the general rule.

It does allow tildes, but not other diacritics or special characters - this is plainly inconsistent, but that's the USGS for you. (For instance, that place in Colorado would be Cañón City in Spanish.)

Apostrophes whose purpose is abbreviative or elisive seem to be allowed, and there may be something in besty's suggestion that in general they only get to stay when the place name's language of origin is not English. (Land O' Lakes WI seems to be the only exception to that suggestion in the list provided, and note that a similarly named place in Maryland is Land-O-Lakes.)

Hawai'ian place names are a bit of a special case. The thing which appears to be an apostrophe is a letter of the alphabet in Hawai'ian, and technically it's not actually an apostrophe. (They call it 'okina, and it should be written the other way round to an apostrophe; that it appears the same here is a font issue.)


graytart, thinking about accents on capital letters in French has changed in recent years. The Académie française now "deplores" the fact that they are often left off, as can be seen here (in French).

 
tchrist
643360.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:32 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
tchrist, the QI Elves do not use Wikipedia as a single source - indeed, it's more common that Wikipedia uses QI as a single source!

In fact, the main source for the apostrophes fact was the US Geological Survey. The USGS considers that the forms of names that it uses are by definition correct and official, and it does not allow possessive apostrophes other than in the five specified exceptions to the general rule.

It does allow tildes, but not other diacritics or special characters - this is plainly inconsistent, but that's the USGS for you. (For instance, that place in Colorado would be Cañón City in Spanish.)

Or Ciudad del Cañón. ;-} Thanks for the lesson on toponyms from Hawaiʻi, suze; I hadn’t known that. I see that the USGS has a fine FAQ on apostrophes in names: (emphasis my own)

Quote:
I have heard that the use of the apostrophe “s”, such as Pike’s Peak (Pikes Peak in the database) to show possession is not allowed in geographic names, so why are there many such entries in the GNIS Database?

Since its inception in 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has discouraged the use of the possessive form—the genitive apostrophe and the “s”. The possessive form using an “s” is allowed, but the apostrophe is almost always removed. The Board's archives contain no indication of the reason for this policy.

However, there are many names in the GNIS database that do carry the genitive apostrophe, because the Board chooses not to apply its policies to some types of features. Although the legal authority of the Board includes all named entities except Federal Buildings, certain categories—broadly determined to be “administrative”—are best left to the organization that administers them. Examples include schools, churches, cemeteries, hospitals, airports, shopping centers, etc. The Board promulgates the names, but leaves issues such as the use of the genitive or possessive apostrophe to the data owners.

Myths attempting to explain the policy include the idea that the apostrophe looks too much like a rock in water when printed on a map, and is therefore a hazard, or that in the days of “stick–up type” for maps, the apostrophe would become lost and create confusion. The probable explanation is that the Board does not want to show possession for natural features because, “ownership of a feature is not in and of itself a reason to name a feature or change its name.”

Since 1890, only five Board decisions have allowed the genitive apostrophe for natural features. These are: Martha's Vineyard (1933) after an extensive local campaign; Ike's Point in New Jersey (1944) because “it would be unrecognizable otherwise”; John E's Pond in Rhode Island (1963) because otherwise it would be confused as John S Pond (note the lack of the use of a period, which is also discouraged); and Carlos Elmer's Joshua View (1995) at the specific request of the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names because, “otherwise three apparently given names in succession would dilute the meaning,” that is, Joshua refers to a stand of trees. Clark’s Mountain in Oregon (2002) was approved at the request of the Oregon Board to correspond with the personal references of Lewis and Clark.

Curious how they do not even know why their own long-standing policy exists!

I see the USGS there references only natural features, yet when you look at U.S. city names, it is indeed true that exceedingly few contain apostrophes for their possessive forms.

I’m sure that the USGS does consider themselves correct by definition, but this isn’t always fully respected and is sometimes even resented. The state of Colorado and the residents of its Cañon City all fervently disavow the (ahem) canonical U.S. census name, which lacks the tilde. The notorious case of Pittsburgh comes especially to mind when considering local rebellion against USGS naming conventions. ePodunk’s misspelled cities list mentions that:
Quote:
Pittsburgh is the most misspelled city in America, according to a recent study by ePodunk. The spelling of the city in western Pennsylvania has long been a point of contention. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names ruled in 1890 that the final "h" should be dropped from the names of all cities and towns ending in "burgh," but the citizens of Pittsburgh mounted a campaign to keep the traditional spelling. The board relented in 1911 and restored the "h." All these years later, people remain confused.

The ePodunk site claims it “tries to conform to the naming styles used by the Census Bureau, the U.S. Geological Service and the Postal Service. When these styles conflict, our preference is to use the Census spelling,” but I’ve found cases where they do not follow that policy. Nonetheless, they do provide another source for names with apostrophes in them:
    Alabama: Gee’s Bend of Wilcox County; Jacksons’ [sic] Gap (town) of Tallapoosa County
    Alaska: Clark’s Point (city) of the Dillingham census area; St Mary’s (city) of the Wade Hampton census area
    Arkansas: O’Kean (town) of Randolph County
    Florida: Land O’ Lakes (census-designated place (CDP)) of Pasco County; Sewall’s Point (town) of Martin County; Town ’n’ Country (CDP) of Hillsborough County
    Idaho: Coeur d’Alene (city) of Kootenai County
    Illinois: Bois D’Arc (township) of Montgomery County; Cheney’s Grove (township) of McLean County; O’Fallon (township) of St. Clair County; O’Fallon (city) of St. Clair County
    Iowa: O’Brien County
    Maine: Swan’s Island of Hancock County (spelt Swans Island in U.S. census data)
    Maryland: Martin’s Additions (village) of Montgomery County; Prince George’s County; Queen Anne’s County; St. Mary’s County; St. Mary’s City of St. Mary’s County
    Massachusetts: Martha’s Vineyard of Dukes County
    Michigan: L’Anse (village) of Baraga County; L’Anse (township) of Baraga County
    Missouri: Fountain N’ Lakes (village) of Lincoln County; Lee’s Summit (city) of Jackson County; O’Fallon (city) of St. Charles County
    Minnesota: O’Brien (township) of Beltrami County
    Mississippi: D’Iberville (city) of Harrison County (name derives from founder D’Iverville); D’Lo (town) of Simpson County (name derives from French for “of the water”)
    Nebraska: O’Neill (city) of Holt County; Hart’s Location (town) of Carroll County
    New Hampshire: Hale’s of Carroll County; Hart’s Location (town) of Carroll County
    New York: Denman’s Island within Oneida Lake of Onondaga County
    North Carolina: Cajah’s Mountain (town) of Caldwell County; Wilson’s Mills (town) of Johnston County
    North Dakota: Captain’s Landing (township) of Morton County; Reile’s Acres (city) of Cass County
    Ohio: Johnson’s Island of Ottawa County
    Pennsylvania: O’Hara (township) of Allegheny County
    South Dakota: O’Neil (township) of Faulk County
    Tennessee: Scott’s Hill of Henderson County
    Texas: Bailey’s Prairie (village) of Brazoria County; Carl’s Corner (town) of Hill County; Miller’s Cove (town) of Titus County; Morgan’s Point (city) of Harris County; Morgan’s Point Resort (city) of Bell County; O’Brien (city) of Haskell County; O’Donnell (city) of Lynn County; Port O’Connor of Calhoun County
    Vermont: Avery’s Gore (gore) of Essex County; Warner’s (grant) of Essex County; Warren’s (gore) of Essex County (per the OED a gore is a small strip or tract of land lying between larger divisions.)
    Wisconsin: Land O’ Lakes (town) of Vilas County
I notice nearly all of those lie east of 100°W longitude and most also east of the Mississippi River; moderately interesting. I imagine many communities in the West were formed after 1890.

There may perhaps be fair precedent for dropping the apostrophe: after all, one does write Pennsylvania and not *Penn’s Sylvania for William of Essex’s land of vain pencils.

Cities with great and glorious names do tend to see those worn down by time. Consider how what was originally El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciúncula became Ciudad de Los Ángeles, then in English Los Angeles, and finally just L.A. in the vulgate. I’d not care to see St James's Park become St James Park — just who was that James Park chap anyway? — but I imagine it may happen sooner or later, and probably sooner.

--tom

 
scienceofsleep08
643364.  Fri Dec 04, 2009 11:15 pm Reply with quote

mckeonj wrote:
Should not the different kinds of apostrophe have different names?
We seem to have at least two, the posessive and the abbreviative, and possibly a third, the elisive, indicating a dropped H ('enry 'iggins) or a glottal stop (bu'er).


A QI fact is that all apostrophes had the same quintessential role--they indicated a missing letter(s). This is obvious for the abbreviative and elisive apostrophe, but is also historically true of the possessive apostrophe. The genitive case in Old English was commonly designated by adding "es" to the end of the noun, and the modern possessive apostrophe stands for the omitted "e".
For example, line 501 of Beowulf mentions "Beowulfes sið" which translates to "Beowulf's quest".

Quote:
The modern Saxon genitive is derived from the strong masculine and neuter genitive case of Old English. The plural forms are a relatively modern innovation, and are not derived directly from Old English.


Last edited by scienceofsleep08 on Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:13 am; edited 2 times in total

 
Celebaelin
643406.  Sat Dec 05, 2009 7:17 am Reply with quote

Fountains n' Lakes?

Fish 'n' Chips?

 
suze
643419.  Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:13 am Reply with quote

scienceofsleep08 wrote:
The genitive case in Old English was commonly designated by adding "es" to the end of the noun, and the modern possessive apostrophe stands for the omitted "e".


This is correct, but only as regards strong nouns of masculine and neuter gender. For strong feminine nouns, the genitive was formed in -e and for weak nouns in -an.

Since we now use -'s for nearly all nouns, I'm not sure that we can really consider it as the omission of an <e> which existed in Old English.


On the various parks of Saint James, this one just gets silly. The Royal Park in London is St James's Park as is its station on the London Underground, the Newcastle United football ground is St James' Park but its railway station is called St. James, and the Exeter City football ground is St James Park but its railway station is St James' Park.

(Both football clubs sometimes get it wrong, as does First Great Western regarding the station in Exeter.)

 
scienceofsleep08
643441.  Sat Dec 05, 2009 11:11 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
This is correct, but only as regards strong nouns of masculine and neuter gender. For strong feminine nouns, the genitive was formed in -e and for weak nouns in -an.

Since we now use -'s for nearly all nouns, I'm not sure that we can really consider it as the omission of an <e> which existed in Old English.


That is essentially how it started (I should have been more clear in the original post), but, once its use to denote the possessive case took off, the apostrophe fell victim to the cycle of loose usage by the populace and futile attempts at codification by the grammarians, which seems to be the motif of English's history.

The following are quotes from The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language by David Crystal (a man described as a national treasure):

Quote:
By the 18th century, it was being regularly used as a genitive marker in the singular, representing (according to the most likely theory) the omission of the letter e from the ending of the former genitive cases -es. Later, the usage extended to the genitive plural, but even at the beginning of the 19th century there was inconsistency over whether constructions such as the girls' dresses should contain an apostrophe (because no letter was being `left out').


Quote:
For example, the apostrophe was allowed to mark possession in nouns (girl's) but not in pronouns (hers), and even this rule had exceptions (one's).

 
suze
643462.  Sat Dec 05, 2009 12:40 pm Reply with quote

David Crystal wrote:
Even at the beginning of the 19th century there was inconsistency over whether constructions such as the girls' dresses should contain an apostrophe (because no letter was being `left out').


Thanks for this bit, scienceofsleep. This is rather wonderful, and absolutely typically English! (And what's more, I can probably get it into a lesson within a few days!)

 
scienceofsleep08
643470.  Sat Dec 05, 2009 1:21 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
And what's more, I can probably get it into a lesson within a few days!

Wish my English teacher had been able to explain the intricacies of grammar to us... we were just expected to pick it up magically.

 

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