Monthly Archives: March 2015

Possessing possessive company names …

Some business names appear in possessive form, such as “McDonald’s” and “Wendy’s.”  So … how do we make a possessive of such nouns that already appear in possessive form?

Technical writing rules for such things would suggest adding yet another apostrophe-s to the word, e.g., “You should try McDonald’s’s new succotash milkshake!”

Yikes!  Although defensible according to standard rules, such a bizarre spelling would probably shock and repulse your reader even more than the notion of milkshake tasting of lima beans and corn. Fortunately, there are better alternatives.

One solution is to avoid the problem by rephrasing, e.g., “You should try the new succotash milkshake at McDonald’s!”  And it is also perfectly acceptable to allow the company’s name to function as a kind of possessive, e.g., “McDonald’s succotash milkshake is my favorite!”  Either alternative is more pleasing (and tastier) to your reader than a McDonald’s’s succotash milkshake!

That is all for now …

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More about whether … or not.

Two weeks ago we discussed the coupling of “whether” and “or not,” and learned that “or not” is usually unnecessary because “whether” implies “or not.”  But—of course—there’s an exception to the general rule.

“Or not” is necessary when “whether or not” means “regardless of whether.” Thus, “or not” is appropriate in these examples:

  • The game will be played whether or not it rains.
  • Court times are available whether or not you’re a tennis club member.
  • The child was required to eat his broccoli whether or not he liked it.

That is all for now …

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Why does naïve have two dots over the “i”?

So … what’s the deal with the double dots over the “i” in the word naïve—or over the “e” in Noël, Brontë, and Chloë?  Is it simply an umlaut, which is used to change the vowel sounds of certain German words and is placed over the first vowel (e.g., Jägermeister, München)?

No, dear readers, it is not an umlaut; instead, the double dot over the “i” and “e” is a dieresis.  Now you’re probably asking, “what the heck is a dieresis”?  Your humble Scribe will explain.

A dieresis is used in English over the second of two consecutive vowels—e.g., naïve, Noël, and Chloë—to show that the vowels are pronounced as separate sounds, not as a diphthong.  (A diphthong results when two consecutive vowels sounds are joined together to form one sound, e.g., deal, double, certain, pronounced.)  A dieresis is also used to show that a final vowel is not silent, and should be pronounced—such as Brontë.

In the past, English had lots more words that included a dieresis, including coöperation and poëm.  (Auto-correct really hates leaving a dieresis in those words, by the way.)  But as people have learned to correctly pronounce these—and other—words that formerly had a dieresis, the dieresis was dropped.

That is all for now …

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