Possessive: St. James's/James'/James Park?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by K.u.r.t, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. K.u.r.t Senior Member

    London, UK
    could someone please explain to me why is there a place in London called "St.James's park" as opposed to "St. James' park"

    All the English grammar books that I recall always said that the possesive noun should receive a terminal 's except in case when the noun ends with s and in such cases it should receive only the terminal apostrophe.


    John - John's
    Thomas -Thomas'
    visitor - visitor's
    visitors - visitors'

    Thank you for sheding some light into when should I use
    James / James' / James's
  2. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England

    It's "St. James's Park", with a capital "P".
    I was never taught the "rule" that appears in your grammar books. In my experience, most Londoners pronounce "James's" as two syllables and include the "s" after the apostrophe when writing the word. On my map of London the park and the Tube station that seves it are both shown as "St. James's Park".
  3. e2efour

    e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 76)
    UK English
    In place names in the UK there seems not to be a rule governing apostrophes. Thus we have the anomaly of St James' Park, St James Park and, in London, St James's Park.
  4. mplsray Senior Member

    Traditionally, the possessive form of a singular noun ending in s was formed by following it by apostrophe-s with a few exceptions such as Biblical possessives (Jesus' and Moses') and the possessive forms based upon the names of ancient figures such as Aristophanes'. Under such a rule, one would expect the possessive St. James's.

    St James's, with no period in the abbreviation would appear to be a combination of a modern (British) form St with a traditional form James's.
  5. pickarooney

    pickarooney Senior Member

    Provence, France
    English (Ireland)
    I recently read somewhere (I know, really specific!) that St Andrews (golf course etc.) in Scotland should be spelled with no apostrophe anywhere.
  6. K.u.r.t Senior Member

    London, UK
    Thanks to everyone - to sum it all up the way I understand it:

    singular nouns have possessive form as follows:

    Peter's, James's (exceptions: Jesus', ...)

    plural nouns have possessive form as follows:


    Last but not least: to all rules there are exceptions, that is especially case for local names in the UK (St. Andrews)
  7. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    That "rule" for singular nouns ending in "s" is not one I recognise. I see no reason to believe that Jesus's mother should be written Jesus' mother.

    For me the nearest we can get to a rule is that all singular nouns ending in "s" should have " 's " to become a possessive, but there are many exceptions in place and institutional names. There also seem to be additional exceptions which depend entirely on where you learnt your English.
  8. Spira Banned

    South of France
    UK English
    I beg to disagree. All grammar books, including our own for native speakers, always insist that the second S is eliminated when the possessive noun ends with an S. Although we continue to pronounce it as though the second S was present.
    Jesus' mother is thus most definitely the correct way to write it.
    Which is why St James' Park, where Newcastle Utd play football, is the usually accepted form, and St James's Park in London is the exception.
    An inexplicable exception.
  9. K.u.r.t Senior Member

    London, UK
    that was my initial understanding before asking this question. The question is: who got it wrong then - the people on this forum or the grammar books? :eek:)
  10. Spira Banned

    South of France
    UK English
    Until this thread I didn't think it was an issue.
    St James's Park in London has always intrigued me, for its "wrongness"!
  11. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    ... Or did the map makers and London Transport "get it wrong"?

    I wonder how many native speakers have seen the "rules" in grammar books and I wonder about the grounds on which the authors say "This is a rule", given that there is no official body to decide such things. I'm going to continue saying and writing "Chris's house".
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Erm... I think that's a teensy exaggeration, Spira;).

    There have been lots of previous threads on this question, a number of them quoting sources which don't recommend "elimination of the second s". Here's an early one: Possessive - 's with names or plurals ending in s.
  13. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    I, too, beg to disagree. Your grammar book might have taught that, mine did not.

    There is an interesting discussion on the use of the apostrophe by Lynne Truss. It is in a book which has been described by at least two literate reviewers as "Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves". Please note that is Truss's.

    To me, St James's Park remains the correct form and St James' Park is a local variant (as St Thomas' Hospital which has been so called for a few hundred years). Exeter is blessed with a St James Park station and football ground, but curiously in St James' Road. Actually, the spelling is inconsistent locally, with First Great Western spelling it St James', National Rail St James and a historian of the L&SWR using St James's. I wonder who could be right?
  14. Spira Banned

    South of France
    UK English
    Probably :(.
    What I really mean is that until twenty minutes ago I'd never heard of anyone challenging the "rule" (sorry, but we did learn rules at school, even if there is no British equivalent of the Académie Française).
    To me this was a non-issue.
    PS I followed your link. I have never heard either of one rule for proper nouns and another for common nouns.
    As a Londoner born and bred I have always considered the spelling of St James's Park to be a historical quirk.
  15. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    I prefer logic and consistency to guide me in what is "correct" vs. "wrong," rather than dead grammarians who had nothing better to do than come up with winaneeird rules with Biblical exceptions. :D

    I pronounce Jesus's, James's, etc. all with two syllables, just as I do boss's, so I use 's. If I pronounced them with one syllable, I'd use just ', as I do with monosyllabic dogs'.

    When I read something like James', I assume it's because the author pronounces it as James, and not like James is (Jamesiz), but I guess I know now that it could simply be their following the "rule." I wonder how this is handled in poetry...
  16. relic5.2 Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    For proper nouns that end in an 's', I was always taught you could pick either: the logic being that grammatically you should only use the apostrophe, but it was established practice in the case of saints and old names to use 's.

    I found that weird and picked and chose depending on how it sounded.
  17. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I was taught that the 's went on the end of singular words (whether they end in s or not) and ' was added only to plurals that end in s.
    Belonging to Jane = Jane's
    Belonging to James = James's
    Belonging to Jones = Jones's
    Belonging to the Jones brothers (i.e. the Joneses) = Joneses'

    This all made sense: if you think about William Williams, George Williams and William Jones - there are two Williams and two Williamses. Things that belong to these pairs, are Williams' and Williamses' respectively, while things that belong to William are William's and those that belong only to one Williams are Williams's. All clear :D

    Moses, Jesus, Aristophanes etc were the exceptions, for reasons related to age (that I never quite fathomed).
  18. Spira Banned

    South of France
    UK English
    Yes, but you don't spell everything the way you prounce it, do you? ;)
    At leest, you shoodn't :D

    Seriously, do we have an AE/BE grammar difference here?
  19. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    That's why I added "consistency" after "logic." ;)

    I would never write pseudo-phonetically because people would have a hard time understanding me. It's better to be consistent with what people are used to, in that respect. However, as concerns ' vs. 's, since both are used and, for many people it can go either way, I sway to the side of logic than to the side of historical peculiarity.

    To put it another way: writing shoodn't instead of shouldn't* is not an option because, even though a word like good has the same vowel realized orthographically as oo, there is no one today that accepts shoodn't - it would be a personal, idiosyncratic way of writing it. In contrast, there are a lot of people who write James' and a lot who write James's, despite the "rule," so there is the option; and if there is the option, I'll sway the way my gut wants: James's.

    *I know you were just joking, but for the sake of argument...
  20. mplsray Senior Member

    That is the traditional rule. However some publishers now prefer that singular nouns ending in an s are made possessive by the addition of an apostrophe alone. the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual is an example of a manual which once called for apostrophe-s in such a case, but now calls for an apostrophe alone, so that its rules would result in boss' and Jones'.

    One additional rule to keep in mind is that place names in the United States generally have a possessive without an apostrophe while keeping the s marking possession, as in Pikes Peak. There are exceptions to this as well, including Martha's Vineyard. The Wikipedia article here briefly discusses the matter in the case of Pikes Peak.
  21. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Possessive - proper names ending in Z or S
    Possessive - Proper nouns - Specific examples - George, Ross, Moses and Louise
    Possessive - s' or s's with proper nouns - Chris' or Chris's dog?
    Possessive form of plurals and proper nouns
    Possessive Proper Nouns ending in -s or -z
    Possessive: History, and proper nouns in "ss" - Ross' or Ross's
    pronouncing the S at the end of a possessive proper noun


    From one of the threads above, I quote (me:)):

    Please remember the first rule of WordReference.
    ☛☛Forum Rule #1
    Look for the answer first.
    Check the WordReference dictionaries if available (and scroll down for a list of related threads) or use the forum's search function.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2010
  22. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    JS, I read somewhere that the reason was to do with pronunciation rather than age. Those words already end with /ɪz/, /əz/ or /i:z/, all very similar to the pronunciation of <'s>. The apparent duplication disrupts the euphony.

    Having said that, I do say Jesus's sometimes.
  23. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    The end consonant of both Jesus and Moses for me is /s/, not /z/.

    Anyway, I don't think there's any disruption in euphony. After all, we say fizzes, buzzes, sneezes, chalices, walruses, pieces, etc. without any problem.
  24. mplsray Senior Member

    Here is an example of such an argument, from An Analytical and Practical Grammar of the English Language: Revised, 1867, by Peter Bullions. From sections 173 and 174:

    In answer to Brian's objection, euphony, "too close a succession of hissing sounds," harshness, difficulty in pronunciation, and stiffness are all subjective. They indeed have been seen as the reason to drop the possessive s in some instances.
  25. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Oops, they are for me too, brian. :eek:

    I think what I was trying to say is that there are a whole lot of sibilants /s/ and /z/, and Jesus's would contain three. (And mplsray has given a good representative quotation of this kind of reasoning, for which, thanks! :))

    I'm not saying that I agree with the reason given. I only wanted to point out why some people might be fine with James's or Dickens's but not Moses's.

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