Deltas 802

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Mon Apr 26 15:06:47 UTC 2010

On 4/26/10 10:25 AM, Herb Stahlke wrote:
> Yesterday I received the following query from Ask-a-Linguist:
> "I'm an airline pilot. I frequently hear other pilots add an ''s'' to
> their airline call sign if their airline ends in an ''a.'' For
> example, a pilot will say ''Cleared for takeoff, Deltas 802'' instead
> of ''Cleared for takeoff, Delta 802.'' The same is true with my
> company, Mesaba. Some say ''Mesabas'' instead of ''Mesaba.'' I think
> the sentence flows better with adding the ''s,'' but I can't find any
> linguistic reason why people do it. Answer?"
> I suggested that the -s might be a genitive bu-t then it should occur
> with any airline name.  Perhaps the -s is an alternative to the
> elliptical noun phrase "Delta (flight) 802, but, once again, that does
> not explain why it occurs only with airline names ending in<a>.  I
> asked him if he knew of airlines ending in<y>  or<o>  and whether he'd
> heard the -s with them as well.  I haven't heard back from him yet.
> I'd be interested in other interpretations of "Deltas 802."

When I saw that query, my immediate association was with "the Walmarts",
which, I think, is a different -s than the ubiquitous department store
-s (which pretty much, as I recall from the last discussion of it,
doesn't co-occur with the definite article). I didn't have time to think
out a response, so I let it go.

Alice Faber                                    faber at
Haskins Laboratories                           tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                        fax (203) 865-8963

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