Tag Archives: The Bells of St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s Bells

Having spent hours looking up a rule of punctuation, I’m giving up and turning to you, smart and learned readers.

The question is: How does one punctuate the possessive form of a name that is already possessive? Put another way, when the name of a store or a church is possessive—ending in apostrophe-s—and is used in the possessive, is a second apostrophe added? How about another s, while we’re at it?

Here’s an example: The name of the store is Trader Joe’s. I want to refer to their produce. If I say “Trader Joe’s produce is always fresh,” that appears to refer to the produce of one man, Trader Joe. It would make sense to write, “Trader Joe’s’ produce is always fresh,” but we all know English does not always make sense. And that second apostrophe looks like a second thumb on one hand.

Here’s another example: Say St. Michael’s Catholic Church, familiarly called “St. Michael’s,” has a website. Would we refer to it as “St. Michael’s website?” If so, would that not imply that St. Michael himself had a website?

As I said, I’ve looked high and low for the answer, in the collection of style guides that live on my shelves and on the Internet. There are volumes about the possessive of plural nouns, proper nouns and words ending in sibilants (I had to look up sibilant). When I found a tip about double possessives, I thought I was on to something, but it had nothing to do with my question.

Please don’t suggest I flip it around. “The nuts at Trader Joe’s” would be cheating and I’d like to crack this one.

It looks as though the person who named the film The Bells of St. Mary’s took the easy way out.

10 Comments

Filed under All Things Wordish