Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 19:35:08 -0400

From: Frank Southworth fsouth[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CCAT.SAS.UPENN.EDU

Subject: Possessive 's (fwd)

I am interested in getting feedback on current usage of the possessive

's. When I was young (I am now in my mid-60's) I was taught, and have

always observed, the rule that in writing, the final [s] was always

dropped from the sequence [s's] IF AND ONLY IF the first [s] was a mark

of the plural. Thus I write [the boy's mother, the boys' mothers, Mr.

Jones's car, the Joneses' children, keeping up with the Joneses, Harris's

theory, the Harrises, the Harrises' living room, Dickens's Christmas

Carol, Jesus's resurrection] etc. Sets of words like

[Joneses-Jones's-Joneses'] and [Harris's-Harrises-Harrises'] are

pronounced identically, viz. /jonzIz/, /haerIsIz/. I have met people

somewhat younger than me who delete the final [s] in [s's] even when the

first [s] is NOT a plural [s], in some or all cases. In fact I understand

that there are teachers of English who consider spelling like [Dickens's]

to be incorrect.

Now it seems that people of a younger generation also delete the

/Iz/ in spoken forms in cases like "keeping up with the Jones" /jonz/. I

would be glad to have more information about this. (Possibly age,

geographical origin, and other factors are relevant variables...)

Frank Southworth (fsouth[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]