Thursday, August 05, 2004

If You're Not Possessive About Your Children . . .

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. No apostrophe. Unreal. Would you trust these peopleses with your singular child?

(Update: I wrote to the hospital through its Web site, and a PR person was nice enough to answer. Apparently this question comes up a lot. It seems the error is an old one, and attempts to insert the apostrophe have been rebuffed by staff lawyers in the name of consistency with the articles of incorporation. Still reprehensible, but to my mind not as bad as the newfangled-branding-strategy explanation I had expected.)

8 comments:

Frank said...

Just to play devil's advocate (or maybe devils advocate?, nah!): Could the case be made that "Childrens" is an adjective, modifying "Hospital"?

Bill said...

No. "Children Hospital" could be an adjectival way of doing it, but "childrens" is nonsense. The s without the apostrophe can mean only one thing: plural. And "children" is already plural -- you can't have more than one children.

Matt said...

The children's hospital down the road got it right. I'm glad I'm from Orange County and not Los Angeles. www.choc.com

Bug Me Not said...

It reminds me of St. Elizabeths here in DC. Refusal to use an apostrophe because of some vague historical precedent.

Bill said...

St. Elizabeths would be a parallel case, as it obviously isn't a reference to more than one St. Elizabeth. I guess it grates on me less because "Elizabeths" at least qualifies as a word, whereas "childrens" does not.

Surly said...

"Look at them oxens over there."

And then there are all the singulars made plural by not having an apostrophe.

"Pikes Peak" I believe was decided on by the Colorado Legislature.

Wasn't "Ceasars Palace" intended to suggest that every visitor is like a big-shot Caesar, or some such nonsense? But if that's the case, why wouldn't it be "Ceasars' Palace"? Help me out here.

And then there are all the signs in Tucson that say "St. Marys Road." That's probably best explained by drunkenness in the public-works department. A true plural would be "SS. Marys Road," anyhow.

Surly said...

SS. Mary, I mean.

teece said...

Perhaps they are remembering the good old days, centuries past, when the possessive case didn't have the apostrophe. Using the apostrophe there is actually the result of a mistake in English evolution. In the Renaissance (or there abouts) the sound at the end of the Middle English genitive ending, -es, due to lack of stress, was pronounced -is. That is often identical to the pronunciation of his (the 'h' is often dropped, particularly in the UK, when unstressed).

So certain bozos assumed the genitive ending was a contraction of "his." Thus "stonis" and "ston (h)is" were pronounced the same. People began to think the inflected form of "stone," which is "stonis," meant "stone's." Inflections were rare in English by this time, so folks were not all that conversant in using them.

Thus "Children's Hospital" is really "Children his Hospital". Silly. The "woman's clothes" is really the "woman his clothes." Even sillier. To regain the proper genitive inflection, it should be the "womanes clothes." We'd probably drop that useless "e:" "womans."

Maybe that is what they are doing out there in LA? Ha! Maybe not.