"greengrocer's apostrophe"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Aug 4 12:12:24 UTC 2000

Thanks to Arnold for his (predictably) great post on the principles
underlying these wayward ''s (note that those are two apostrophes,
not a double quote), but I seem to recall at least one additional
parameter that emerged in our earlier discussion of these:  their
prevalence after (orthographic-)vowel-final nouns, as well as (or
especially in) foreign imports.  That is, I've seen
"taco's" or "burrito's" more often than, say, radio's or tomato(e)'s
(although I'd expect "tomato's" more often than "tomatoe's", as the
apostrophe seems correlated with some sort of islandhood for the noun
undergoing pluralization.  Or maybe those plurals in -os just don't
look quite kosher, so the apostrophe is discreetly placed between
them as a revival of the old practice of bundling (to change ethnic
metaphors), just to keep the -o and -s from getting too intimate with
each other.


P.S.  Cf. also "Chevy's", for those for whom neither "Chevys" nor
"Chev(v)ies" looks right.  In fact, I'm beginning to be convinced
there is a connection between the above and those equally wayward
apostrophes in pluralized names ("the Horn's").  Maybe this
islandhood-preservation thing is part of the story?

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