The Day for How Many Presidents?

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Every year on this date, I think perhaps I won’t be annoyed the next year with missing or errant apostrophes in the name of the holiday, that people will catch on to the correct punctuation. But how can they when they see rampant errors in advertising? (I do wonder whether the holiday exists primarily for Macy’s to have a sale on towels and bedding.)

Today I have seen PRESIDENTS DAY, PRESIDENT’S DAY and PRESIDENTS’ DAY. Which is it? This is simple. Obviously, the name is a possessive. Just decide how many presidents the day belongs to. If it were on Lincoln’s or Washington’s birthday, it would be PRESIDENT’S. But since the day is in memory of both Lincoln and Washington, the apostrophe goes after the final S: PRESIDENTS’.

When deciding where a possessive apostrophe needs to go, ask yourself whom the item belongs to. Think of the apostrophe as an arrow pointing to the owner word. Then add APOSTROPHE S. If the new word you’ve formed ends in  two or three esses (weird word), just drop the final S. It’s not wrong to leave it, but the trend is toward eliminating it:

Three dogs’s tails——-> three dogs’ tails

My boss’s memos——–> my boss’ memos (pronounced “bosses,” which happens to be the plural of boss)

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3 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

3 responses to “The Day for How Many Presidents?

  1. Pingback: President’s Day Cryptoquote Spoiler – 2014 | Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

  2. According to the National Constitution Center, ” In 17 states it’s Presidents’ Day (plural possessive), in five states it’s Presidents Day (plural), and in four states it’s President’s Day (singular possessive). Much to the chagrin of copy editors, there is nothing close to national consensus on the pseudo-holiday’s name.” Not all states celebrate the day and those that do, don’t all celebrate it to honor more than one president. Perhaps that’s why you see it with and without the apostrophe (before and after the S).

    • I didn’t realize people would make the apostrophe or lack thereof political. To me it’s just a matter of logic. Silly me.

      I always appreciate your viewpoint, Laura. You make me think.

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