Little to say for myself

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Correct Usage

I have a query about the treatment of nouns whose singular form ends in an S - most commonly, proper nouns (names) like Jones, Waters, Richards etc.

I have always treated them as a singular noun that happens to end in an S, rather than a plural noun (just like "fox", which sounds like it ends in an S). In other words:
  • The family of Keith Richards is known as the Richardses (just as the plural of fox is foxes)
  • The life of Keith Richards is Richards's life (the fox's)
  • The home of the Richards family is the Richardses' house (the foxes' lair)
I'm sure that's right. Often in the media I see it written differently - especially in the US media. To me it's wrong to treat it like a plural (since there is no singular Richard, unless you count Cliff - and I try not to), but I often see the equivalent of:
  • The family of Keith Richards is known as the Richards's, or the Richards', or even the Richards.
  • The life of Keith Richards is Richards' life.
  • The home of the Richards family is the Richards' house.
I've also seen acronyms ending in S treated in the same way - this post was prompted by having just read in Aviation Week & Space Technology about the French national centre for space studies CNES (usually pronounced "K-ness"), where it referred to CNES' role in a Franco-Brazilian technology/scientific microsatellite mission. Surely it's CNES's role, isn't it?.

I have my answer, but it's not what I expected - very arbitrary. It seems to depend on whether you consider Keith Richards to be a classical poet...

posted by Plig | 13:41 |

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