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.

Observation: It seems that it's common to turn a store name into a possessive, for example a store named "Palisade" gets transformed to possessive in speech like, "Hey how about going to Palisade's for breakfast?" Another example is Chutneys Grille in Seattle. Many (most?) store names do not get this treatment. It seems most common if the store name is:

  • Abstract: "I saw a great concert at BOOT's last night."
  • A person's name, or what looks like a person's name: "I got this at JC Penny's"
  • Totally unknown word: "I get my hair cut at Foofum's"
  • [UPDATE] Is it ungrammatical to do this?

My assumption is that it's a short form of saying "BOOT's performance venue" (nonsensical though?), "JC Penny's shop", or "Foofum's salon".

Questions:

  1. Is this common, or is it just my home town or something? Or my imagination?
  2. Why must we do this instead of simply calling the store by its rightful name? To me "I saw a concert last night at BOOT." is no less clear, and no more difficult to say.

Inspired by a previous question

share|improve this question

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The fact is, we can do this by calling a store by its rightful name.

I got this at The Gap.

I got this at Sears.

I got this at Kohl's. [Kohl's is the store's real name.]

I got my snow thrower at Lowe's. [Lowe's is the store's real name.]

I got this book at Barnes & Noble, because it was cheaper than Brentano's was selling it for. [Yeah, I know Brentano's sold out, but that was their real name.]

Sometimes people feel they have to add a possessive to a store's name, but they really don't. People who say JC Penney's just don't know what the store's name really is. They may even think Sears is Sears' or Sear's.

share|improve this answer
    
Barnes & Noble is a great example as I hear "Barnes & Noble's" all the time when it's clearly not a name. In this case maybe it's because it flows better because of the S at the end of Barnes? For example maybe people think it's "Barne's and Noble's" –  tenfour Mar 3 '11 at 1:48
3  
@tenfour: Why do you say "Barnes & Noble" is clearly not a name that should have a possessive suffix added? It sounds exactly like the names of two proprietors of one business, in which case a possessive is entirely appropriate - just like Marks & Spencer in the UK, universally referred to as "Marks and Spencer's" (when not affectionately renamed "Marks and Sparks"!) –  psmears Mar 3 '11 at 8:18
    
I guess because I had the impression it's wrong to turn it into possessive. But you're probably right; it's acceptable either way. –  tenfour Mar 3 '11 at 10:24

It seems to me that this is rooted in the nineteenth century habit of labeling a business by a sign giving the proprietor's name and the type of goods or services provided: "A. Anderson / Dry Goods", "GENERAL STORE / C. Johnson, prop.", etc. (This differs from some later forms of business names, like "Dairy Belle".)

How are people going to succinctly refer to such a business? The obvious way is with "Anderson's store" or some such, and that quickly becomes abbreviated to "Anderson's" or equivalent. I think this explains most cases; others may simply applying the same form of shortening to a business name which is mistakenly thought to be based on a personal name. Certainly, this is the case with the stores of J. C. Penney, where it never identified itself as Penney's, but was widely known that way. (You won't find Burger King referred to as King's.)

share|improve this answer
2  
Actually, J. C. Penney Company, Inc., did once call itself J. C. Penney's, then simply Penney's (although the apostrophe didn't appear in the company logo). –  bye Mar 3 '11 at 8:32

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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