Something caught my attention recently.
I was in the new Kinsley’s ShopRite in Brodheadsville and I noticed a sign.
Yup, a sign. The sign was for Doris’s Café, the new café at Kinsley’s. The massive supermarket, which opened in August, is family owned and Doris is the mother of Chris Kinsley Sr., who runs much of the business.
The reason why the sign caught my attention wasn’t because it looked nice, even though it did, hanging above a staircase, facing the café’s seating area.
It caught my attention because of, well, that additional “s.”
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have another look.
See that extra “s” forming the possessive?
It’s absolutely correct.
When a word ends in “s” and is possessive, says the Chicago Manual of Style, you are allowed either to put an apostrophe at the end of that word, as in “the fortress’ walls,” or you may tack an additional “s” onto the word, “the fortress’s walls.”
It doesn’t really matter which one you chose. This is a case in grammar where the decision is left to the writer. It’s a style issue.
I was a bit surprised, however, that the café chose to add this extra “s.” Some might think that the extra “s” is pedantic. After all, when’s the last time you wrote, “We were in Chris’s room” or “That’s Janis’s friend”? We don’t usually add that additional “s,” even in written English.
As for me, I do not like adding the extra “s” to a word ending in “s” to show the possessive. Doing so requires me to think more. Does this extra “s” really belong here or not? I just want to add an apostrophe to the end of the word ending in “s” and be on my way. “Paris’ charm,” “the boss’ hairdo,” “the walrus’ tusks.”
All that being said, there are certain instances where it is recommended that the additional “s” be used. For example, the New York Times Manual of Style and Usage says that when a singular word ends in “s,” e.g., “octopus,” you should tack that additional “s” onto it when forming the possessive. “The octopus’s eating habits.”
Even more cogent, the Times’ style guide says that if the formation of the possessive changes the pronunciation of the word (for example, if TIMES goes to TIMES-ez), then that additional “s” is usually tacked on.
Being that Doris’s Café really would be pronounced DORIS-EZ café , the sign is yet again correct. The folks at Kinsley’s are on a roll.
So I wanted to know who chose to add this extra “s” to the sign. Who over at Kinsley’s ShopRite has such a good grasp of grammar that they knew that the additional “s” could be used and, additionally, was bold enough to use it in a sign.
I called Chris Kinsley Sr.
I asked him who chose to add that “s.” Was it the fancy design company that was tasked with creating the look of the new store and all its signs? Was there some noted grammarian in the family? Who did it?
“I put that extra ‘s’ in there,” Kinsley said.
He went on.
“I just knew to do it from the grammar lessons I had in school,” he said and laughed.
I told him that I was very impressed with his choice to use the extra “s.” I had never seen it used in a sign.
Again, Kinsley laughed.
“You can’t believe how many people told me that it was wrong.”