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Store names & possessive
“Ear doctor's” vs “Ear doctor”

I have often heard members of the British public pronounce the name of the supermarket chain Tesco as "Tesco's" or "Tescos".

Thinking that it was formerly called "Tesco's", as many old British companies are, I looked up its history and learnt that it is a concatenation of the initials of its early tea supplier's name (T. E. Stockwell) and the first two letters of the founder's surname (Cohen), and was never called "Tesco's".

Is it because of confusion with other supermarkets such as Sainsbury's and Morrisons? If so, why have I not heard "Asda's", "Co-op's" or "SPAR's"?

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    @FumbleFingers: Not voting to close, as trade names fall into a different category, as I hope my answer shows. – Barrie England Jan 19 '12 at 21:00
  • I agree with @BarrieEngland that this has nothing to do with "ear doctor's". It is, however, a duplicate of the store names question. – Marthaª Jan 19 '12 at 23:14
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    FWIW I often heard "Asda's" when I lived in England. – Pitarou Jan 19 '12 at 23:34
  • @Pitarou: Can't say I'm surprised. I haven't heard it myself, but then I have very little to do with the place. It adds credibility to my belief that the addition of the 's', with or without an apostrophe, is by analogy with stores named after their founders. The answer to why it's never never 'Waitrose's', by the way, is a mini-lesson in sociolinguistics. – Barrie England Jan 20 '12 at 8:13
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    Note that Sainsbury's persisted for 130 years with their official name "J Sainsbury", before finally giving in and changing the name to what everybody called it anyway: "Sainsbury's". – Vince Bowdren Jan 27 '20 at 22:15

As you will know, but as those living outside the UK may not, the names the supermarkets themselves use are Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, Co-op and SPAR. The first two are named after their founders, so the terminal ‘s’ indicates that it is, or once indicated that it was, Sainsbury’s shop and Morrison’s shop (and let’s leave aside for the moment why there’s an apostrophe in one and not in the other). Co-op is short for The Co-operative, so there’s no semantic reason why it should be known as Co-op’s. Similarly, SPAR, I believe, is an acronym, so equally SPAR's would make no sense. That leaves Tesco and Asda. If the first is sometimes called Tesco’s, that may well be by analogy with Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. That is not the oddity. The oddity is that Asda is not known as Asda’s. At least, it’s not as far as I know. Maybe in some quarters it is. If it’s not, perhaps it’s because it was a relatively late arrival and the name Asda was thought somehow to be inviolable.

You may know that the UK bookstore chain is changing its name from Waterstone’s to Waterstones. This has provoked outrage among the usual suspects. However, a company can choose to punctuate its trade name how it likes without regard to what is done elsewhere. Hence Sainsbury’s but Morrisons. There are three sensible and well-informed posts on the topic here, here and here.

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    The company's own choice of their name is almost incidental in some cases. We call them what we want, not what they would like. I find it interesting that with Google Instant, if I type in just marks, the top suggested autocomplete is and spencer. But if I type at marks and, the top one is spencers. – FumbleFingers Jan 19 '12 at 21:54
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    Asda was originally short for "Associated Dairies" – Henry Jan 20 '12 at 1:15
  • "We call them what we want," might, finally, be the speculative rationale for Tesco(')s. However, we have not yet unearthed any etymologically worthwhile history behind Tesco(')s. – Kris Jan 20 '12 at 7:09
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    @FumbleFingers And names do tend to stick. What implements them in the first place is the interesting thing. When I was in the first term at grammar school, the English master wanted to hear us all read aloud. So we all followed while each member of the class took a turn at reading. One chap, let's say called Peter, pronounced the word "wholly" as wally. Ever after, - until he left school was he known to everyone as Wally - and probably his wife calls him that to this day. – WS2 Jan 28 '20 at 14:32
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    @WS2: I still remember my first linguistics class at uni. Being new and not knowing that you're not supposed to interrupt the lecturer, I disagreed with his list of "meaningfully unique English phonemes" - some of which just "sounded the same" to me. He spent a couple of minutes getting me to repeat various words and phrases, then concluded by telling me (and a couple of dozen other students) that I had the lowest number of unique phonemes he'd ever encountered in a native speaker! (At the end of that first term all my family said I'd starting "talking posh", but I hadn't noticed! :) – FumbleFingers Jan 28 '20 at 15:28

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