Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Java Script

Geez, do you suppose there's any connection between the fact that we here at "A Way with Words" are racing to get ready for the show's brand -new season (about which more here), and the fact that both Grant and I are posting this week about various things with lots of caffeine?

Speaking of caffeine, in this International Herald Tribune article by William Safire (in which Safire happens to quote Grant yet again as an expert source), Safire ponders the relationship between Starbucks and the possessive 's.

"Yesterday, I picked up a pamphlet that proclaimed 'Starbucks commitment to social responsibility,' " writes Professor Henry Richardson of Georgetown University. "That's all very nice, but what about their commitment to the apostrophe?"

In the advertising claim "Starbucks commitment," the commitment is the promise that belongs to Starbucks, and its possessive action calls for a punctuation mark that indicates that: an apostrophe. But this clear grammatical requirement runs into the "sounds funny" problem. To make it correct, you would write "Starbucks's," requiring the pronunciation "Starbucks-zzz." Of course, if the name of the chain were Starbuck's, (with an apostrophe, meaning "the place owned by a guy named Starbuck, like the character in 'Moby-Dick,' " then it would get a little tricky: Starbuck's's. That sounds as if you're fast asleep.

Right. But I don't see why you can't just write Starbucks' with the apostrophe at the very end. A lot of authorities make exceptions in this case for certain important names, and punctuate their possessives that way -- including Jesus and Moses and Socrates.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who supplies me with tasty, sippable caffeine falls into the same category.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Brock said...

Jesus, Moses, Socrates, Starbucks? I guess we've got some pretty big shoes to fill. We're in pretty good company, then.

I prefer to think that we simply omit the (perfectly optional) "the." As in: "(The) Starbucks Commitment to the Environment." Or "(The) Starbucks Position on Excessive Apostrophe Usage." ;)

5:41 AM  
Blogger Martha said...

Ha! Good point, Brock. The "the" would make all the difference.

7:20 AM  

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