Tag Archives: Woodward & Lothrop

Penalty for possession

Long before the Word Nymph aired her first grievance, a friend had whispered a complaint into my sympathetic ear. She wondered what prompted those close to her, God-love-’em, to make the names of all restaurants and retailers possessive.

She observed that her mother, along with so many of our mothers’ generation, always adds an apostrophe + s to the name of just about every business in town.

Perhaps it’s because so many businesses used to be owned by individuals: Mario’s Pizza. Harry’s Bar. Bertha’s Mussels. (All right, not Bertha’s; that’s another story.)

Years ago, department store names, such as Woodward & Lothrop, The Hecht Company and R.H. Macy & Co. were shortened to such neighborly nicknames as Woodies, Hecht’s and Macy’s. The nicknames took hold, to no one’s objection. Eventually, these stores branded their possessives.

Now, however, businesses whose names were neither possessive to begin with nor shortened to nicknames are being made so by those who link every business to a person.

In this shopping season, let us be reminded to call our retailers by their correct names. It is Nordstrom, not Nordstrom’s. Lord & Taylor, not Lord & Taylor’s.

Far more egregious examples exist with regard to restaurants. It’s gone rampant. Let us not assume that every restaurant is named after a person. Restaurants take great care to give their establishments fitting and clever names, many of which don’t bear the moniker of the owner, founder or chef. Yet we can’t seem to help adding an apostrophe + s. Examples of these violations are too numerous to mention, many coming from within my own circle.

Maybe these complaints are nit-picky. Can we at least agree that, when the name of a business has a possessive built in, we should fight any urge to add an apostrophe + s?

Here’s an example. A Mexican restaurant near me is called Mi Rancho, Spanish for “My Ranch.” Is it not redundant to call it Mi Rancho’s? The same goes for any establishment beginning in Mon, Mes, Notre, Nuestro or any other possessive pronoun, as well as any beginning with Chez.

This also stands when the name of the restaurant is a noun; Panera, for example, meaning “Bakery.” In English, we would not say we are going to the bakery’s. Why, then, do we say we’re having lunch at Panera’s? Let’s not.

Sorry for the grumpies. I’ve suddenly become very hungry.

(But while we’re at it, it’s Williams-Sonoma, not Williams and Sonoma. Jones New York, not Jones of New York.)

When in doubt, take your cue from the sign:


Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion, Food, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Rants and Raves

Time capsule in the news

In case you missed them, here are some headlines from Sunday’s Washington Post:

“Twining Criticism Stirs NATO Clash”
“Bulgaria Reds Shift Politburo”
“Nixon Committee to Organize in District”
“Gay Clothes Put Sparkle in Young Eyes”
“Cosmopolitan Tehran Lacks Middle East Table: Hardest place to find a Middle Eastern restaurant in”
“Electronic Gadgets Shrinking to Specks”
An op-ed piece on “Wall Street Money and Politics”
“The Federal Diary: Efficiency Rises in 3 Agencies”

Confused? I pulled these headlines from the Sunday paper that was printed on December 13, 1959, the day I was born. I still have the actual paper my father bought at the Hilton at 16th and K Streets after he dropped my mother off at Georgetown University Hospital. That’s how things were done back then. 

Fifty-one years later, that newspaper is all yellow and crackly around the edges, as am I. Still, I pull it out every year and marvel at how things have changed—and how they haven’t—since 1959.

Debbie Reynolds graced the cover of Parade, while Ann Sothern appeared on the cover of TV Week.

What is now the Style section was “For and About Women.”

One could buy a completely redecorated row house in Georgetown for $28,000 or rent a furnished luxury apartment at 2400 Pennsylvania Avenue for $160 a month. A house in Kensington, Md., where I live, went for $18,900.

District residents were enticed to do their shopping at Julius Garfinkel & Co., Woodward & Lothrop, Kann’s, Raleigh Haberdasher, Best & Co., Stein’s, G.C. Murphy Company and People’s Drug.

IBM took out a want ad for machine operators, offering complete training in Key Punch and Tab and Wiring. Another company advertised openings for “Ambitious Men (white).” Egads.

Before I put away this paper time capsule until next year, I thought you might enjoy a few images.


I’m betting many of you recall Washington in the 1950s. Does any of this stir a memory?


Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Family and Friends, Marketing/Advertising/PR, News, Politics, Reading