How can I refer collectively to a group of people with the same name, for example:

Having so many Johns around is confusing.


Having so many John's around is confusing.

Which one is the correct usage? Or should I only refer to them as "people named John"?

This could be somewhat compounded when surnames are used, if the pluralized version is also common.

  • Simple rule of thumb: if you want a plural, don't use an apostrophe. Apostrophe-s is for possessives. – JPmiaou Mar 3 '11 at 20:29
  • 2
    @JPmiaou: A thousand of p's and q's would beg to differ. – Martin Tapankov Mar 3 '11 at 20:40
  • rules of thumb have generally have exceptions. – JPmiaou Mar 4 '11 at 5:06
  • Dratted thing won't let me edit my comment; the first 'have' is of course extraneous. – JPmiaou Mar 4 '11 at 5:27
  • And "its" is possessive while "it's" is not possessive but instead is the contraction of "it is". – medley56 Apr 13 at 21:47

Johns is fine (if a bit unfortunate in its implications for that particular name). John's means "belonging to John".

  • So what about pluralization that changes the spelling? e.g. "I know way to many Shelbies" or "Emilies are always nice people" or "I like all Timothies". – medley56 Apr 13 at 21:49
  • @medley56: Bad. Shelbys, Emilys, and Timothys. – chaos Apr 29 at 14:34

As evidenced by the common phrase "keeping up with the Joneses", simply pluralizing, even if the name is already theoretically in a plural form, is the way to go.

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