# Editors and grammarphiles:

1. Dec 5, 2005

### DaveC426913

I don't have an editor's community so ... help!

I have a pricelist of goods, two examples:

Men's 100% cotton shirt

What is the correct possessive spelling for #2 here?

2. Dec 5, 2005

### Bystander

'Xactly whatcha got --- "ladies'," belonging to more than one lady, or lady's if belonging to a single lady --- "shirt" needs to be plural --- seldom find more than one person in a single garment at a time.

If you wish to use the singular "shirt," you should also use the singulars, "man's" and "lady's."

3. Dec 5, 2005

### Danger

You should also correct the accuracy of your description. I know for a fact that those things are at least 15% polyester.

4. Dec 5, 2005

### DaveC426913

You jest.

Or you have a ... unique ... idea of what a "fact" is. (Thanks for the input.)

5. Dec 5, 2005

### Danger

Of course. It's expected of me now that they've stuck my name in the 'Guru' running. Life was far simpler when I could just ignore feeble opportunities like this.

6. Dec 5, 2005

### DaveC426913

Good points. However:

1] A pricelist normally contains a price for a single item, so it makes sense to have a single item listed as a product. You wouldn't see "48 inch flatscreen TVs" listed in a Sears pricelist.
i.e. no pluralization on the product itself.

2] I can't imagine walking into a department store and seeing the signs overhead saying "Man's Department". It always says "Men's". So, does the Ladie's department says Ladie's? Drat. Plural/posseesive/y-ending words always mess me up.

7. Dec 5, 2005

### Danger

Generally, if the word ends in 's', you put the apostrophe after it. Lady's is singular possessive; Ladies' is plural.

8. Dec 5, 2005

### Bystander

However, more than one man or lady at a time can shop in such depts. --- don't have Turabian or Chicago A handy, so can't give you definitive comments.

9. Dec 5, 2005

### brewnog

No, because then the customer would sue when he didn't get nearly 50 really really small TVs...

Can I be nominated for the most irritating and pedantic Brit award please?

10. Dec 5, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
You asked what's grammatically correct, not what's actually used.

The grammatically correct way to write it would be:
"Men's 100% cotton shirts" and then the price should be listed as (making up a number here), "$24 each." This indicates you have more than one item for sale, but the price is for just one of them, not all of them (I've always been tempted to walk into one of those stores that advertises "Everything for$1," hand them a one-dollar bill, and tell them I'll take everything ).

And of course for the women, the correct way to write it would be:
Or, you could use: "Women's 100% cotton shirts." But, in clothing, Ladies' and Women's mean something different in terms of cut and sizing, so you wouldn't want to switch the two.

If you only had one for sale, you could still write: "Men's 100% cotton shirt." The reason is that you're actually referring to men's sizes/styles, not that it's a shirt for more than one man.

And, actually, that can be a tip-off in some of those electronics stores that run specials on a few clearance items. If there is a 20" TV for sale, there really might be only one left of that model. If there are 20" TVs for sale, then they have several in-stock. Or you can look in the fine print and see if they list a specific serial number (when I was younger, there used to be quite a few shady retailers that would pull advertising tricks like that...they'd have one TV for sale for $20, and in the fine print, would list the specific serial number of that in the flier, and when you showed up, they'd tell you that one was sold first thing in the morning, but they have all these other nice TVs for$200.

11. Dec 5, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
:rofl: You're right, technically, it should be 48-inch flatscreen TVs. That tiny hyphen makes a big difference. It would be rather fun to try an ad that says 48 inch flatscreen TVs and see how people react when you have a table full of 48 one-inch TVs. :rofl:

12. Dec 5, 2005

### matthyaouw

You wouldn't win

13. Dec 5, 2005

### motai

Really? I never would have known that. How are they different? What in clothing differentiates a woman from a lady? Are the lady measurements more refined and suited for wives of lords?

14. Dec 5, 2005

### Moonbear

Staff Emeritus
Women's clothing is cut fuller in the curvy areas where women expand more with age...more to fit the post-childbirth figure. Ladies' clothing is usually a bit more slender in cut (and the styles are also for a younger crowd)...sort of the 20-something, just-starting-out-on-a-career clothing. And then there's misses' clothing, which is for the young, skinny twigs...I mean, teenagers. That is cut almost more like a boys' fit, because young teens don't usually have too many curves yet (if they do, they should try the ladies' clothing). You didn't know it was so complicated, did you?

15. Dec 8, 2005

### honestrosewater

Teehee, I think it's amusing that English attaches s to the end of words and phrases to mean several different things. There's a plural -s, two ducks duck, a subject agreement -s, one duck ducks, a possessive -'s, this duck's duck is fake, and a contraction of is -'s, that duck's a real duck. So I can type things like those ducks's duck's ducking duck duty! and make your head explode.

Perhaps the confusion is just the convention of dropping the last s when you get two in a row, as in two cats's claws --> two cats' claws. You just add the plural -s to lady to get ladies, add the possessive -'s to get ladies's, then drop the last s, if you want to, to get ladies'.

Of course, it's also confusing that not every word is pluralized by adding plural -s. Men, for instance, is pluralized by changing the vowel sound (a.k.a. by ablaut) in man. So adding possessive -'s to a plural noun doesn't always result in two s's in a row, though that would make life a little easier and avoid strange-looking combos like Men's and Ladies's and Men's and Ladies'. (I think it's cool that you noticed that those combos look strange -- they do use different formation "rules"; just shows that you might have been looking for the rules by looking for patterns.)

Oh, and -'s (note the apostrophe) is also sometimes used to pluralize things that aren't usually words, as I just did with s's. This -'s is probably better thought of as having two parts than being another variant of the plural -s though.

Of course, you don't even pronounce the apostrophes in speech, and I bet most of you manage just fine without them. Your brain is pretty cool, huh?

And if ablaut sounds or looks familiar, you might be thinking of umlaut, which, yep, you guessed it, is a type of vowel ablaut used in germanic languages. Okay, someone shut me up, or I'll go on all day.

Last edited: Dec 8, 2005
16. Dec 9, 2005

### TheStatutoryApe

Is that the proper way of doing it? I usually type it 'S's or "S"s. Ofcourse you could also type/write it "esses" but most people probably wont know what you mean.

17. Dec 9, 2005

### TheStatutoryApe

Yet for some reason they always out the buttons on wrong.

18. Dec 9, 2005

### honestrosewater

I don't know if there's a most popular way of doing it (I'll check around), and I'm inclined to say that "proper" is just whatever works best in the situation. I used the apostrophe because I didn't think there was a big enough distinction between the two s's in my first thought, ss -- which follows the "rule" of adding s onto the end of whatever word you want to pluralize, if you consider strictly following that rule to be proper (you might be breaking other rules in the process though, so...).
Your examples are clear to me. I was already using italics to accomplish what I presume you are doing with quotes: making the symbols refer to themselves.? I actually think s's is also a bit confusing, but I just may have to settle on that one.
I think the context would usually make esses clear (I understood it easily just now), but other letters whose spelled-out form also happens to have another meaning (bee, tee, etc.) could cause ambiguities.

Last edited: Dec 9, 2005
19. Dec 10, 2005

### honestrosewater

Okay, I checked about a dozen dictionaries; using an apostrophe was the most popular. They all listed the apostrophe option (a's, A's), most also listed adding the lone s (as, As), and those were the only two options I found. I like using something to signal that the symbol is being used to refer to itself and was just reminded that angle brackets, < >, are commonly used to denote graphemes. (A grapheme is defined as either 1) an atomic unit of a writing system, e.g. a letter or punctuation mark, not necessarily representing a phoneme, or 2) a unit of a writing system, not necessarily atomic, that represents a phoneme. So since, in English, <ea, ee, ei, ey, i, ie, y> all represent the phoneme /i/, the vowel sound in sheesh, they are all graphemes according to (2) but only the atomic <i, y> are graphemes according to (1). And since <!> is atomic in English but does not represent any English phonemes, it is a grapheme according to (1) but not (2). Again, linguists can't manage to agree on definitions, like, ever. Logicians have the same problem, only worse. You'd think they, of all people, would know better or try harder. Oy. It just really annoys me. Anywho...).
Personally, out of

ss ss 's's "s"s <s>s
s's s's 's''s "s"'s <s>'s

s's or <s>'s would be my first choices, depending on the context. I think ss, ss, and s's are too ambiguous and 's''s and "s"'s are eyesores. But I probably think about these things too much.

On that note, my dictionary search turned up more s uses. Yay. -s is also used to form adverbs, as in unawares, and -'s also results from a contraction of has, does, and us, as in What's been happening?, What's he want?, and Let's go before we fall alseep. Captivated?

Last edited: Dec 10, 2005
20. Dec 10, 2005

### Danger

I feel like I've fallen into a snakepit.