or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, November 12, 2007

Home Ownership

Here's a sentence from a Salon.com review of a book called "Them":

That Civic League meeting isn't the only bizarre echo of a supposedly distant past; someone sets fire to the Gilmore's mailbox, and the burning post looks disturbingly like a cross.

"The Gilmore's". What the fuck is that? What is a Gilmore, and why does it have a mailbox?

Laura Miller is a senior writer at Salon.com, and presumably therefore knows how to write. How can it possibly be that she doesn't know how to write the possessive of a plural proper noun? And how can it possibly be that there's nobody at Salon who casts a second pair of eyes at everything that's being published, to make sure that mistakes like this don't happen?

For the record: the Gilmores, a couple, have a house, and therefore that is the Gilmores' house. If you're one of those people who insists on ending every possessive with an apostrophe-ess, then it's the Gilmores's house. It is not, ever, under any circumstances "Gilmore's". That's the singular possessive, and in this context it's wrong. (It only works if you habitually call someone by his or her last name, in which case you may say, "That's Smith's house." Smith. Singular.)

It's the sort of mistake you see all the time on wooden house signs, the kind that I always want to fix with a can of plastic wood and a spatula and a sotto voce cuss word. It isn't the sort of mistake you'd expect to see in a piece of professionally written, edited and published writing.


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