2

This is from an article in a recent issue of Time magazine: "Barbara Bush has said on several occasions that she suspects Americans are tired of Bushes even as she asserts that Jeb would be the best imaginable President."

Shouldn't it be "the Bushes"? I've never seen a family name pluralized without "the" before.

Many thanks in advance for your help.

5
  • 1
    This looks like a peeve to me. There's nothing wrong with things like "Perhaps voters are tired of Kennedys" Apr 25, 2014 at 19:00
  • 2
    My intuition is that Americans are tired of the Bushes means "Americans are tired of the Bush family as a collective", while Americans are tired of Bushes means "Americans are tired of individual people bearing the name 'Bush'".
    – senshin
    Apr 25, 2014 at 19:00
  • 2
    @senshin Yes; I think Barbara Bush is sensibly using the hedged, distancing version ('Bushes') rather than the nearer-to-home (though as OP suggests rather more accurate) version ('the Bushes' – or worse, 'us Bushes'). Apr 25, 2014 at 19:04
  • Thank you very much senshin, I think I got my answer from you :-)
    – Valeriya
    Apr 25, 2014 at 19:18
  • You could say both versions were 'hedged'...
    – mjsqu
    Apr 26, 2014 at 2:13

1 Answer 1

2

Family names can be accompanied either by the definite article the ("the Smiths") or by the zero article ("Smiths"). However, these two constructions mean slightly different things.

Americans are tired of the Bushes.

This construction suggests that Americans are tired of "the Bushes" as a collective entity - that is, Americans are tired of the whole goshdarned Bush family, taken as a single group.

Americans are tired of Bushes.

This construction, as Edwin Ashworth eloquently points out, is "hedged" and "distancing" - it suggests that Americans are tired of various "Bushes", each taken individually, without requiring the speaker (a Bush) to assert that Americans are tired of a group that includes her.

That is, Americans might be tired of George H. W. Bush, and also tired of George W. Bush, and also tired of Jeb Bush, and maybe even tired of Prescott Bush - but Americans are not necessarily tired of Bushes as a whole; just some Bushes in particular.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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