Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Possible Duplicate:
If the cricket ground Lord's is a possessive, what if you want to describe something belonging to Lord's?

Here's a tricky one that I can't quite figure out the correct punctuation for. How do you write the possessive of a noun which is already possessive? The example which spawned this question:

How would you describe something belonging to St. John's, where St. John's is any of the colleges, towns or hospitals which bear this name, including the apostrophe, and not the saint?

edit

@waiwai933: This is what I've always done, I just wondered if there was any clever punctuation you could use to avoid this kind of rephrasing. I'm guessing from your immediate reply that the answer is probably no, but I'll see if anyone else comes up with something interesting.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by ShreevatsaR, RegDwigнt, Kosmonaut Feb 14 '11 at 16:02

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

    
You could write St. John's' - although it does look odd. I don't know if it is valid anymore, but it certainly isn't common (but if you read some Victorian-era books, you would see that kind of usage, as well as words like "is'n't" and "has'n't"). –  HorusKol Feb 14 '11 at 0:16
2  
    
@ShreevatsaR - agreed, I didn't find that on my initial search. How do I merge in, or do I need an admin for that? –  dataduck Feb 14 '11 at 13:41
add comment

1 Answer 1

Avoid ambiguity and use the full name if possible.

St. John's College's admissions office

St. John's Hospital's triage area

If not, rephrase.

The schoolhouse of St. John's, Redhill


@waiwai933: This is what I've always done, I just wondered if there was any clever punctuation you could use to avoid this kind of rephrasing. I'm guessing from your immediate reply that the answer is probably no, but I'll see if anyone else comes up with something interesting.

That's correct. There's no real way around it, unless you've referred to it already, in which case you could step around mentioning the name altogether:

Its new surgical ward has just opened.

share|improve this answer
    
I agree; I have never seen St. John's's (or St. John's') being used. –  kiamlaluno Feb 14 '11 at 1:38
2  
Eh… this seems like answering “James’ or James’s?” by “Neither, you should always use his surname!” If there’s a St John’s College (Hospital, etc.) that you and your friends talk about frequently, then there’s no way you’ll end up naming it in full every time in speech, and no good reason to do so in writing. Also, one could be talking about eg the city of St. John’s, in Newfoundland, where there’s no noun to evade the question with… –  PLL Feb 14 '11 at 3:30
1  
@PLL The fact is, there is no other way to do this. And we're only addressing the possessive case here—it's fine to say "St John's just opened a new ward", but not "St. John's'(s) new ward". Assuming you've already referred to it, you could say "its new ward". And as to the city case, the name of a city is a proper noun. –  waiwai933 Feb 14 '11 at 3:35
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.