I've read (in the Elements of Style) that, while genitives of names ending in ‘s’ may have an additional ‘s’, as in "Ross’s", this oughtn't to be done with ancient names:

Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake. But such forms as Achilles' heel, Moses' laws, Isis' temple are commonly replaced by

the heel of Achilles

the laws of Moses

the temple of Isis

What is known about the origin of and reasoning behind this distinction?

  • 2
    And I have very rarely heard anybody talk about the heel of Achilles. It's Achilles' heel — although I see people did when Strunk and White first wrote their book. See Ngram. – Peter Shor Sep 25 '19 at 13:45
  • @PeterShor I pulled this from the source info because like you, I was confused by Socrate's. – David M Sep 25 '19 at 13:47
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    Related and probable duplicate. You are confusing spelling and pronunciation. So have many others like you. Hen’ce the confu’sion’s. The right answer is that Speech is always primary. You should therefore remember (or notice) that Socrates ends in unstressed /iz/; therefore nobody adds an extra schwa+z for the genitive as in Socrates’ death any more so than they do in Aristophanes’ plays. What happens with Sisyphus is up to you. :) – tchrist Sep 25 '19 at 13:55
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    Moses' and Jesus' are done this way to conform with the King James Bible. The rules were different back then. You only used 's if the last syllable was stressed. Shakespeare wrote alehouse' and mistress', although he used house's. – Peter Shor Sep 25 '19 at 14:34
  • @Toothrot I merely cut and pasted. If you wish to edit back in the smart quotes, feel free. My phone doesn't seem to want to format that way. – David M Sep 25 '19 at 16:07

I’m not familiar with this “ancient name” thing, but I have a very strong suspicion it’s a relatively new idea which has been created by non-experts, and is most-definitely not in accordance with American Standard English.

As a rule: If the s is on the name, you add an apostrophe (‘) and another s. If you’ve added the s, then add an apostrophe but not another s—which is redundant. Therefore, “in Jesus’ name” is incorrect; “in Jesus’s name” is correct. “Lucas’ dog” is incorrect; “Lucas’s dog” is correct.

  • It sounds like [Nordquist) 'American Standard English' is not a well-defined standard: << Standard American English Pronunciation – "StAmE pronunciation differs from region to region, even from person to person, because speakers from different circumstances in and different parts of the United States commonly employ regional and social features to some extent even in formal situations." (William A. Kretzschmar, r., "Standard American English Pronunciation." A Handbook of Varieties of English, ... – Edwin Ashworth Oct 26 '19 at 15:46
  • ed. by Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider. Mouton De Gruyter, 2004) >> [Nordquist). And subject to change: << "But because our language is constantly changing, mastering its appropriate usage is not a one-time task like learning the multiplication tables. Instead, we are constantly obliged to adjust, adapt, and revise what we have learned." (The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Columbia University Press, 1993) >>. And undemocratic, in that most Anglophones haven't been consulted in its structure. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 26 '19 at 15:46
  • all right, how do I verify that verifiable fact? – Toothrot Oct 26 '19 at 21:36

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