Writing Jerk: Grammar Note

The most recent edition of that horrible magazine Entertainment Weekly (see another entry on that) had the following in its bullseye section:

“Boss’ star blah blah blah”

It took me several seconds to realize that they were referring to the show Boss, starting Frasier Crane.

Why did it take me several seconds to realize it? Because it broke several rules of grammar and usage, and, in fact, broke the ones that I cherish the most, the first rule in The Elements of Style.

Names that end in s take ‘s as their possesive form (with the exclusion of bible characters such as Jesus, Moses, etc. But even then, it’s best to use the “of” construction.”)

People think that any word that ends in s takes no ‘s in its possessive form. This is wrong and stupid. People who think this are wrong and are being stupid (they can remedy this).

Let’s get this straight, you losers, by which I mean the entire population of English speakers: The only words that end in an apostrophe are PLURALS THAT END IN S.

So, the boys’ locker room. The girls’ bachelorette party. The zombies’ assault. My balls’ sensitivity.

Each of these snippets has to do with a group of things. A group of boys. A group of girls. A herd of zombies. A couple of balls.

Now, let’s try it with words that end in s.

The bus’s wheels. The bass’s mouth. Maize’s healing properties.

Here we see the different sounds we can get with s, and even the dreaded “triple s.”

Okay, with me so far?

Now, let’s take names. Guess what? THE SAME RULES APPLY.

Tom Cruise’s new movie. (I once heard Letterman say “Tom Cruise’ new movie.”)

Evan Jacobs’s blog.

Boss’s character blah blah blah.

They are pronounced like this:




How can I prove that I’m right?

1. Treating names likes this makes them consistent with all the rules of grammar.

2. Strunk and White say so.

3. It’s LESS confusing like this.

Let’s take a look at 3. Grammar exists for one reason alone, so that everyone has a set of rules by which to create sentences that everyone else can understand. When it comes down to a rule, the answer is always the one that reduces confusion and advocates clarity.

Let’s see how this stupid misconception (which, like my least favorite misconceptions, comes from a place of people attempting to sound educated) makes things more confusing.

When Letterman said, “Tom Cruise’ new movie,” has I not known who Tom Cruise was, I could have inferred two things.

1. His name is Tom Crew.

2. There are several people names Tom Crew and they all have a movie together.

In the written form, I could have inferred several things

1. The rules of grammar have been raped.

2. There is a dropped letter at the end of his name.

3. Cruise’ is a word from a different language that uses apostrophes willy-nilly, like arabic or hebrew.

How about Evan Jacobs’ blog?

1. My name is Evan Jacob.

2. There are several people named Evan Jacob and they all share a blog with me.

Boss’ star blah blah

1. The show is called Boss’.

2. The show is about more than one Bos. (That would still be “boses”).

3. Magazine editors are morons.

For some reason, people think that it’s confusing to have a “zez” or “sez” sound at the end of a word, or, on the other hand, having an “s’s” or an “ss’s” or even a “z’s.” It isn’t confusing, it’s the opposite, clarifying. Please, please, please, stop being stupid and start using an ‘s when in doubt.


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