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Q: pronunciation ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: pronunciation
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: ansmepls-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 30 Dec 2004 11:05 PST
Expires: 29 Jan 2005 11:05 PST
Question ID: 449307
How does one pronounce Mavis' What is the difference between Mavis' and Mavis's
Please explain apostrophy use.
Subject: Re: pronunciation
Answered By: leapinglizard-ga on 30 Dec 2004 12:29 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear ansmepls,

You have several options here.

If you wish to be very proper, you should pronounce


just as you would


without the apostrophe. This comes closest to respecting the author's
intention, although it may sound funny to the modern ear. This is
because the preferred spelling nowadays for the possessive form of a
singular proper noun, as in

  I got into Mavis's car,

is to add the extra "s", although some corporate style guides still
recommend or require dropping it. See, for example, the rules of
Associated Press (AP) style.

    SINGULAR PROPER NAMES ENDING IN S: Use only an apostrophe: 
    Achilles? heel, Agnes? book, Ceres? rites, Descartes? 
    theories, Dickens? novels, Euripides? dramas, Hercules?
    labors, Jesus? life, Jules? seat, Kansas? schools, 
    Moses? law, Socrates? life, Tennessee Williams? plays,
    Xerxes? armies. AP Style: possessives

This contradicts Strunk and White's Elements of Style, which is
required reading at many universities.

    Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.
    Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,
    Charles's friend
    Burns's poems
    the witch's malice
    This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office 
    and of the Oxford University Press. Strunk's The Elements of Style: Elementary Rules of Usage

The conflict between Strunk and the AP has been noted elsewhere.

    possessives -- The main AP exception to Strunk and White's 
    Elements of Style involves forming the possessive of a
    singular proper noun that ends in "s."  AP says merely add an
    apostrophe. Examples: Otis' cookies, Amos' ice cream, Charles'
    chips. And here's a reminder of something I'm sure most of
    you already know: To make something that is singular into a
    possessive, add 's; to make something plural into a possessive, 
    first make sure it is plural, usually by verifying that it ends
    in an "s," and then add an apostrophe.  Here's a nonsense sentence
    that illustrates the idea: One dog's bone is worth two dogs' ears.

Utah State University: Michael S. Sweeney: Guide to AP style

    There's also the opposite case: when a singular noun ends in 
    s. That's a little trickier. Most style guides prefer s's:
    James's house. Plain old s-apostrophe (as in James' house) 
    is common in journalism, but most other publishers prefer
    James's. It's a matter of house style.

Rutgers University: Jack Lynch: Guide to Grammar and Style

In your own writing, then, you may regard the choice of




as a matter of preference. Do note that the latter is the more common
usage today, especially when the writing is informal, while the former
is regarded even by many of its adherents -- such as me -- as somewhat

But to return to the question of pronunciation, the way you say out
loud the possessive form of "Mavis" should match the way you prefer to
write it. If you fancy


in writing, then in your speech it should sound like a plural
construction, so that it rhymes with


If, however, you insist on the AP style, or if you are reading out
loud something written in that style, the orthodox practice is to
pronounce the word as though it were uninflected.

An acceptable alternative, which several English teachers of mine have
employed, is to pronounce


with an emphasis on the final "s", as an auditory hint of the
apostrophe. The emphasis consists not in stressing the final syllable,
but in extending the sound of the "s" to make it a slightly but
perceptibly longer hiss. You may think of it as


but not


and certainly not


Also take note that when reading out loud a text in which


occurs, you would be doing the author a disservice if you pronounced
it to rhyme with


even if your own preferred usage is


In summary, you are free in your own writing to construct the
possessive of "Mavis" using either of the two accepted forms, although
you should follow the same usage consistently within a single
document. If you write "Mavis's", you should pronounce it to rhyme
with "Davises". If you write "Mavis'", read it as simply "Mavis" or
with added emphasis as "Maviss". If you are reading out loud the
"Mavis'" that someone else has written, respect the author's intention
by not pronouncing it as "Mavis's", but as either "Mavis" or "Maviss"
according to your preference.



P.S.: I have seen writers dodge this question by routinely using a
different construction. For example, Saki writes "aunt of Clovis"
instead of trying to form the possessive of his protagonist's name. A
friend of mine who is a stage actor does the same in speech.
ansmepls-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Very good answer and quick. Thanks

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