Saturday, May 08, 2010

Of Apostrophes and Motherhood

Every year I fret about the apostrophe in Mother's Day. Is it the day for one mother or for all? If for all, it should be Mothers' Day, yes?

This year, I was looking for information on the history of the holiday (at my son's request) and found this:

In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases "second Sunday in May" and "Mother's Day", and created the Mother's Day International Association.

"She was specific about the location of the apostrophe; it was to be a singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world."

This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in the law making official the holiday in the U.S., by the U.S. Congress on bills, and by other U.S. presidents on their declarations.

Common usage in English language also dictates that the ostensibly singular possessive "Mother's Day" is the preferred spelling, although "Mothers' Day" (plural possessive) is not unheard of.

Source: this Wikipedia page.

So, Happy Mother's Day to you. I know US Mother's Day isn't until tomorrow, but my son already gave me his gifts, since he couldn't wait.


Kathie said...

I have fussed over that apostrophe also. Thanks for posting your research! I have stewed over the same thing with my Writer's Workshop that I teach in the afternoon and decided to leave it individual. Not because I thought it through; I just liked the look of it better.

Ruth said...

That is so funny, Kathie. I have had the same struggle with my WW. And I came to the same conclusion. I am glad I am not the only person who worries about these things.

Tricia said...

I'm not even a teacher and I wonder about it! [although i will admit to being kind of picky about spelling]

What's the story with children's? Childrens'?

Ruth said...

Children's. But spellcheck always says it's wrong. But spellcheck says spellcheck is wrong too. So what does it know.