Subject: Re: plurals vs. apostrophes
To: John Kohl <>
From: Erich T. Enke <>
List: current-users
Date: 07/26/2000 12:40:01
On Wed, 26 Jul 2000, John Kohl wrote:

> >>>>> "Karl" == Karl Dietz <> writes:
> Karl> BTW: What sources state that a plural is formed by appending "'s" to
> Karl>      some word? IMHO they are completely wrong in any english
> Karl>      dialect.
> I heard one possible explanation for the origin of it:  the "grocer's plural."
> The story is that grocers used to write up specials/notes on small
> boards at their food stands.  Space being at a premium, they used
> abbreviations using apostrophes.  So "tomatoes" might be written
> "tomat's".
> Too bad this gets misinterpreted as a spelling of plural nouns.

I thought it might be from words that normally don't have plurals, such as
computer acronyms.  When someone comes across MTA for instance, how does
one pluralize it?  MTAs doesn't look right to some people because of the
change in case, MTAS is equally bad because the S appears to be part of
the acronym.  So MTA's is introduced, giving a spacer between the acronym
and the pluralizing s.

Another possible reason is names ending in s.  If you wish to talk about
Marthas or Marks it's easy.  However, what about the name Russ.  What's
the plural -- Russes?  Russ's?  I've seen both, I use the former.  But
it's understandable that it could plausibly drift over from these usages.
As to what actually happened, I don't know that I or anyone can say.