Saturday, December 29, 2007

The restaurant possessive

Over on ads-l, there's been an engaging discussion of a presumably genitive -s being added to business names, starting from a post about how natural Wal-Mart's is for one person. Of course, this has been the object of study. Dennis Preston wrote about a student paper at Michigan State:
It's very common here in Michigan. It's more common when the store name is a personal name (Meiers, which is just Meier, Krogers, which is just Kroger, Penneys, which is just JC Penney) but extends to ones that are not (even Targets and K-Marts). Wal-Mart is (luckily) newer here in MI, so it was not covered in this study, which was done more that ten years ago (as a class paper and sadly not published). ... Its use, by the way, is sensitive to sex and shopping frequency at an establishment.
Here in Madison, this is a pervasive characteristic of restaurant names. We held the 17th International Conference on Historical Linguistics here in 2005 and the restaurant guide included this note, suggested by a couple of UW PhDs:
Restaurant names are regularly marked in this region by addition of an -s suffix. Almost any of the names below can be produced with a final s.
It's downright unusual to hear anything that sounds like a possible personal name, and stuff probably beyond, without the -s:
  • Porta Bella > Porta Bella's
  • Casa de Lara > Casa de Lara's
  • Himal Chuli > Himal Chuli's
  • Buraka > Buraka's
  • Kabul > Kabul's
  • El Dorado > El Dorado's
  • The Nitty Gritty > Nitty Gritty's
You don't hear it on some names ending in familiar (non-proper) nouns, and I have heard some speakers declare things like these ungrammatical:
  • Sun Porch, *Sun Porch's
  • White Horse, *White Horse's
Anybody familiar with the s spreading to forms like those?

(Modified from a post on ads-l.)


Anonymous said...

Didn't realize the s was regional. As a native Michigander, the *only* way to say I'm going to my grocery store of choice is to say "I'm going to Meijer's". I'm male and don't like grocery shopping, for what it's worth. That said, I'm not aware of the extension of s mentioned at the end of Mr. V's post, which sounds just plain strange to me.

Mr. Verb said...

It's at least pretty broadly Midwestern, it seems. I've heard people from the South say it sounds odd.