Jimmy's or Jimmys? Feds Wage War on Apostrophes
Punctuation in place names spawns fight
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted May 16, 2013 11:42 AM CDT
Should the apostrophe be allowed on maps?   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Residents of New York's Adirondack Mountains have a bone to pick with the federal government. At issue: punctuation. A nearby mountain known to many as Jimmy's or James' Peak, but US officials won't stand for the apostrophe in the name, leading a local supervisor to grumble, "Jimmys looks plural, not possessive." Indeed, the Board on Geographic Names, founded by President William Henry Harrison in 1890, has only awarded five possessive apostrophes in place names in more than a century, the Wall Street Journal reports. Those include Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and Clark's Mountain, Ore.

Meanwhile, the board has erased apostrophes from some 250,000 names. Its Domestic Names Committee holds that possessive apostrophes suggest public lands are privately owned. But apostrophe advocates haven't given up on their beloved punctuation. "Place names are the autobiography of a nation," says one advocate who worked with South Dakota's naming organization. "The apostrophe has a function." The US, the Journal notes, is the sole country that takes an official stance against apostrophes.

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Showing 3 of 23 comments
May 17, 2013 9:54 AM CDT
Gee wish that is all the Goverment has to worry about.....
May 17, 2013 9:02 AM CDT
The article credited WILLIAM HENRY Harrison for establishing the Board on Geographic Names. Since it was established in 1890, that could not be correct. William Henry Harrison had already been dead for forty-nine (49) years by then. It had been his grandson, BENJAMIN Harrison, who had established the said Board.
May 16, 2013 2:47 PM CDT
Government signage never includes punctuation symbols. That's just government format and it has to do with economizing on space. However, if the government is publishing a guide or book with place names in it, they need to defer to proper English using all punctuation marks.