Was Suzanne Spying on My Personal Life?

“I’ll have that copywriting article ready in the morning. Right now, Peggy and I are heading out to Byrnes’ Irish Pub for dinner and a Guinness.”

I was sending an Instant Message to ETR’s Managing Editor, Suzanne Richardson, from our cabin up in Maine.

“I Googled that pub, and it looks great!” Suzanne replied. “Too bad the owner’s not related to you – you might have a little family reunion.”

How could Suzanne have known the owner was NOT related to me just from looking at the pub’s website?

So I went to the site myself. And when I saw the logo, I realized what Suzanne had noticed: If one of my relatives owned it, it would be “Byrne’s Irish Pub.” But (as I found out) the owner is Joe Byrnes, not Joe Byrne.

In a follow-up e-mail, Suzanne explained the rule: “It’s clear that you’re not related to Joe Byrnes because he’s got that extra ’s’ on the end of his name. I thought that might be the case when I saw the apostrophe in the name of the pub.”

“Of course,” she went on, “it was an incorrect use of the apostrophe.”

How so?

According to Lynne Truss in her best-seller Eats, Shoots and Leaves, “Current guides to punctuation… state that with modern names ending in ’s’ (including biblical names, and any foreign name with an unpronounced final ’s’), the ’s’ is required after the apostrophe.” For instance, “Keats’s poems.”

As with most rules, there are exceptions: names from the ancient world (Archimedes and Achilles, for example), names ending with an “iz” sound (like Bridges or Moses), and Jesus.

So “Byrnes’ Irish Pub” should really be “Byrnes’s Irish Pub” – making it even more clear that Joe Byrnes and I are not related.

[Ed. Note: Have a sticky grammar or usage question? E-mail us at AskETR@ETRFeedback.com and one of ETR’s editorial experts just may respond to your question in an upcoming issue of ETR.]