Remember me blogging about cases way back when? Well, I got an example of a few cases we use in the English Language (although not the kind we speak in America or West Virginia). By the way, if you go read those articles, I don’t know how else you would say some of the things…of course father rhymes with bother. And pin and pen sound the same. I mean…come on!
Anway, here is the example (from Get It Right Online):
Which rendering is correct in each of the following groups?
- Veterans Day, Veterans Day, Veterans Day
- Fathers Day, Fathers Day, Fathers Day
- English Majors Society, English Majors Society, English Majors Society
- Bankers School, Bankers School, Bankers School
- International Executives Association, International Executives Association, International Executives Association
To ask which rendering is correct in these groups is actually to pose a trick question: if these were not proper names, all of these choices could be grammatically correct depending on the context.
Let’s begin by examining how these phrases differ from one another:
- The first choice in each group is a plural noun in the possessive case (Fathers, Veterans, Majors, Bankers and Executives).
- The second choice in each group is a singular noun in the possessive case (Fathers, Veterans, Majors, Bankers, and Executives).
The third choice in each group uses a plural noun that is not in the possessive case. We refer to it as an attributive; that is, it functions as a modifier and does not need to be possessive.
Unfortunately, one rule does not govern in all instances when it comes to deciding when to treat a noun as merely attributive and when to make it possessive. The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed., University of Chicago Press) admits that the line between a possessive or genitive form and a noun used attributivelyas an adjectiveis sometimes fuzzy, especially in the plural. This style manual suggests that writers omit the apostrophe in proper names (often corporate names) or where there is clearly no possessive meaning (p. 284):
- Publishers Weekly
- Diners Club
- Department of Veterans Affairs
Did you catch that…the posessive, or genitive form. I thought it was interesting. If you want to read more, view it online.