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Words, Nov. 6 

Tell them to due their best:

“Though the workings of the Oregon proposal may seem a bit confusing, its results most certainly are not. The vast majority (78 %) of Oregonian families will get nothing, the wealthiest 1% will enjoy a nearly $16,000 annual tax cut, and the government of Oregon will have to make due with between $500 million and $1 billion less in revenues each year.”

 

n  “How do you make something possessive that's already a possessive? This came up when we were trying to talk about the salads that are produced by Wendy's. It seemed wrong just to say Wendy's salads, as that seems like the salad belongs to the mascot and not the chain. But then Wendy's's is just silly looking.”

Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage says:

“It is common for businesses to be named with a proper single name in possessive form, such as McDonald's. Although possessive in form, these are functionally nouns, as in McDonald's brings you a new kind of meal. How, then, does one make a possessive of the noun McDonald's? Literally, it would be McDonald's's, as in Try McDonald's's new dinner combos! But good phrasing requires the new dinner combos at McDonald's.”

There you have a simple answer to many language problems, if only people would use it — rewrite, so as to avoid unanswerable questions like the possessive of Wendy's. Nobody's keeping score; you don't have to worry about losing points.

 

n Or maybe you do. “He'll join the faculty as a visiting professor, leading a seminar on Cultural Competency.”

I'd never worried before about whether I was culturally competent,  and now I learn that somebody's holding seminars, and giving out grades. I better get busy. I'm a little weak on ballet, frankly, and it wouldn't hurt to brush up my opera too. I'm pretty good on poetry as long as they stick to the classics — “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” “Tinker to Evers to Chance,” and that other one.   

 

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