Posted by: Jack Henry | December 22, 2022

Editor’s Corner: It’s December!

Why Do We Call the Twelfth Month of the Year December?

Those of you who are interested in etymology may already know that the word December is formed from the Latin root decem-, which means ten. So, what gives? We all know December is the twelfth month. Maybe jolly old St. Nick is playing a joke on us?

Nope. According to an article called Origins and Meanings of the 12 Months, although the Roman calendar had twelve months, they only named 10 of them because winter was considered a “dead period of time when the government and military wasn’t active.” Those crazy Romans only gave names to the months of March through December. But, even way back then, December was considered the last month of the year.

You may also be interested to know that the etymology of some of the other months is also based on numbers: September stems from the Latin root septem-, which means seven, October stems from octo-, which means eight, and November stems from novem-, which means nine).

But not all the names of the months are based on numbers. The month of August was named in honor of the emperor Augustus Caesar. Similarly, July was named after the emperor Julius Caesar, who was born in that month.

Continuing backward, June and May were named for goddesses: Maia and Juno. April is thought to stem from the Latin root aperio, meaning “to open,” alluding to opening buds in springtime. March is named for Mars, the god of war.

And finally, around 45 BCE, the months of February and January got their names. February stems from the Latin Februa, the name of a purification feast held in this month and January from the Roman god Janus.

Getting back to December, though, Old English used to refer to this month as Fra Goal or Gēolmōnað, meaning yule month. And according to How the Month of December Got Its Name, from Dictionary.com:

The early Germanic people referred to this wintry season as yuletide, a two-month period that spanned December and January. Gol means Christmas day or Christmastide (a word for the period from Christmas Eve to related feast days in early January).

Goel is related to the Old Norse jell, the name of the Pagan winter feast lasting 12 days. Many of the customs of the feast of yule influenced the ways that Christmas is celebrated, such as the tradition of burning a yule log at Christmastime. Fun fact: the word jolly may have derived from the same Old Norse root that brought us yule.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or Festivus, happy holidays to you!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns she/her/hers

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Posted by: Jack Henry | December 20, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Dog Idioms, Part 2

Good morning, readers! It is day two of doggy idioms. For the full, furry list, you can click here.

If You Lie Down With Dogs, You Get Up With Fleas

Meaning: A way of issuing a warning to someone—to say that they will have to suffer the consequence if they do dangerous things.

Be Like a Dog With Two Tails

Meaning: To be very happy or to show great pleasure. It originates from the wagging of a dog’s tail as a sign of happiness.

Example: "He’s been like a dog with two tails ever since he had that big win at the races."

Three Dog Night

Meaning: To say that it is so cold that we need an extra dog for cuddling and warmth.

Puppy Dog Eyes

Meaning: A way of describing someone who uses their eyes or an appealing cute expression to try and appeal to your better nature.

Example: "Don’t you give me those puppy dog eyes—you are not getting any more ice cream. You’ve had enough already."

Bought a Pup

Meaning: A way of describing someone deceived. For example, they thought they were buying something much better than they got.

Example: "The previous owner told me that this was a genuine designer bag, but it turned out to be a cheap imitation. It looks like I bought a pup."

That Dog Won’t Hunt

Meaning: That won’t work; forget it.

Example: "I know you think that we can cross that swollen river by wading across—but it’s a strong current, and I can’t swim. That dog won’t hunt; I’m afraid we need another plan."

[KC – I have to admit, way back in my history with Jack Henry, one of you folks in the South responded to an idea I had with the phrase, “That dog won’t hunt.” I had no idea what that
meant. Why is this guy talking to me about a dog? And hunting?]

My Dogs Are Barking

Meaning: My feet hurt.

Example: "I’ve been on my feet all day, I’m weary, and to make matters worse, my dogs are barking."

Dog-Eared

Meaning: To say that something is a bit worn or well used. Often said when referring to an old book cover or magazine that has seen well thumbed through and has seen better days."

Example: "The book is a first edition copy and could be worth a lot of money. The only issue is that it’s a well-read copy, and the dust-jacket is worn and a little dog-eared."

If You Want a Friend in Washington, Get a Dog

Meaning: Friends are few and far between—if it’s a friend you need here, then you had better acquire a dog.

Hell Hound

"Hell hound" is a phrase steeped in history and fable. The most recognized use of the words is of Cerberus—Hades’ three-headed guard dog. However, the term may have originated from the Egyptians use of hounds to guard graves.

Rock Hound

Meaning: A geologist, studying the Earth’s origin, structure, and composition, is commonly known as a "rock hound."

Example: "He may only be young, but he’s becoming a real rock hound. He’s out collecting rock samples every chance he gets,"

Let the Dog See the Rabbit

[KC – I wanted more information on this, so I looked at another website for a more complete definition.
It is said to be from a Welsh saying, in reference to being fair-minded in sports. Its current definition is a bit broader than that. From
Word Histories:

The phrase to let the dog see the rabbit means to
allow someone to get on with the task that they are supposed to perform, without interference or restriction
.
]

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams | jackhenry.com

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: Jack Henry | December 15, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Dog Idioms

Last week, I explained several idioms about horses. One of you sent me a couple of web sites with a ton of other horse idioms. For you horse lovers out there, here are some additional phrases: Horse TV.

But our animal idioms don’t end there! In fact, several of you requested idioms about animals that make easier house pets than horses: cats and dogs. There are so many idioms out there, so I’m selecting a few, along with their meanings and some examples. Today, we’ll start with dogs and a smattering of entries from the website Owlcation.

Be Like a Dog With a Bone

We all know what a dog is like when it has a bone, right? They are relentless. They never stop.

Meaning: That a person is fixating on a topic.

Example: "Can’t you stop going on about wanting that new car? You are like a dog with a bone."

Tail Wagging the Dog

We all recognize an excited, happy dog by the wagging of its tail. Sometimes, the dog becomes so enthusiastic that it’s as if the dog’s back end has a life of its own.

Meaning: A phrase used to say that a small part controls the whole of something.

It can describe a situation where a recently employed person suddenly runs the business as if he owned it.

Example: "Allowing Paul to dictate the terms of the contract is like letting the tail wag the dog. He’s only been here for three months, and it’s like he is running the show."

In the Dog House

Meaning: To say that you are in trouble or not in favor. Reminiscent of a naughty dog instructed to go to the kennel as punishment for a misdemeanor.

Example: "I’m in the dog house again! I should never have forgotten our anniversary."

Every Dog Has Its Day

Meaning: that everyone will inevitably have at least one moment of glory in their lifetime.

Example: "Would you believe it! Andrew has only gone and won that promotion. I guess every dog has its day after all."

Better the Head of a Dog Than the Tail of a Lion

Meaning: It is better to be a small or low ranking group leader than be a subordinate in a higher or more prestigious group.

A Dog’s Breakfast

A reference to a dog’s meal often being a jumble of scraps.

Meaning: To indicate that a task has been performed to an appalling standard. To tell a person that they are poorly dressed. A phrase that suggests that someone is very messy.

Example: "I hope you aren’t going out dressed like that! You look like a proper dog’s breakfast."

Underdog

Meaning: To say that someone is at a disadvantage and likely to lose a contest. Said of a team that is forecast to lose against better opponents.

Example: "The Torrey Elementary School Thunder Cats have a world famous coach; every other team they play joins the game as the underdog.”

A Shaggy Dog Story

Meaning: An idiom that refers to a story that can be funny but usually ends up being ridiculously lengthy. Often utilized in the context of someone telling a joke that has a meaningless or sudden ending.

Example: "Danny is forever reciting his shaggy dog stories. They drone on for what seems like forever without hardly ever getting to the point."

Done Up Like a Dog’s Dinner

Meaning: An idiom that describes a person seemingly overdressed. The clothing usually being too fussy or silly for the occasion.

Example: "I hope you do not intend to go to the party dressed like that? For goodness sake—you look like a dog’s dinner!"

Dog Days

Meaning: An expression that refers to a period of hot sultry weather in which we feel lazy and unwilling or unable to exert ourselves. Occasionally this is also referred to as a "dog day afternoon."

A Dog and Pony Show

Meaning: To lay on an elaborate presentation with the hope of gaining approval for something such as a product. The Cambridge Dictionary defines this idiom as: "an event that is designed to impress people in order to make them buy something or invest money."

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams | jackhenry.com

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Posted by: Jack Henry | December 13, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Comparisons

Hey y’all! How goes it this lovely autumn morning?

I hope you are feeling happy and healthy and that you are ready for today’s topic: incomplete comparisons. An incomplete comparison is when—in an attempt to compare different things—part of the comparison is missing.

Example: My dog is bigger.

Your dog is bigger than what? My dog? Your neighbor’s dog? A chihuahua? A dining room table? You need that second part of the sentence to make the comparison complete.

Example: My dog is bigger than an Irish Wolfhound.

First, I highly doubt it. Second, I’ll give you some more examples below. Third, I will tell you a little secret: advertisers love incomplete comparisons because they are misleading. You might hear “Our product Tom’s Roach Killer is better!” This incomplete comparison leaves the statement irrefutable. Better than what? Well, they don’t tell you, so you can’t argue with them.

Here are some additional examples and the ways to correct the statements:

Incomplete: Our core solution is better. (Better than what?)

Complete: Our core solution is better than all of the other solutions out there.

Incomplete: John Grisham’s book The Firm is more interesting. (More interesting than what?)

Complete: John Grisham’s book The Firm is more interesting than his book The Testament.

Incomplete: Group A had twice as many test subjects. (More test subjects than whom?)

Complete: Group A had twice as many test subjects as Group B.

Incomplete: Azriel’s son is stronger. (Stronger than who or stronger than what?)

Complete: Azirel’s son is stronger than Tony’s daughter.

Complete: Azriel’s son is stronger than an Asian elephant.

Remember, if your intention is to compare two or more things but your comparison leaves people asking, “compared to what?” you may be missing the part of the sentence that provides the answer and completes the sentence grammatically.

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams | jackhenry.com

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Posted by: Jack Henry | December 8, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Putting on the Dog

Dear Editrix,

I was reading about the (White House) state dinner last night, and in my head, I heard my parents saying “Wow, they were really putting on the dog!” Where does that expression come from? Just curious. 😊

Thanks!

Amy W.

Dear Amy,

What an interesting question! I had never heard that expression before. Here’s what I found out.

Let’s start with what it means. According to Southern Living, “Putting on the dog” means to be fancy or flashy. Here are some examples:

If someone is throwing a party and pulls out all the stops, including the good silver, you could say they’re "putting on the dog." If someone gets extra gussied up—with hot rollers and lipstick and all—you could impressively note that they "put on the dog." If your in-laws are coming in town and you’ve whipped out everything from the embroidered hand towels and homemade cheese straws, you’re "putting on the dog." It can go for people, events, items, or really anything a Southerner dubs it so.

The article describes this as a deeply Southern expression that even some Southerners don’t know, but when I dug around a little more, other articles said that the phrase was first referenced at Yale, which is in Connecticut. From English Grammar Lessons:

The first record of “put on the dog” was referenced in Four Years at Yale, by Lyman H. Bagg. [KC – I thought maybe he was from the South, but he was brought up in Massachusetts. I’m not sure about his parents.] In this text, Bagg wrote that the idiom meant: “Dog, style, splurge. To put on the dog is to make a flashy display, to cut a swell.” During the same period of time, “doggy,” an adjective that was related to the idiom, came about. It, too, was used as a popular slang term that means “attractively stylish; costly; fancy.”

The phrase put on the dog may also be linked to nobility and aristocracy, as wealthier ladies often kept small dogs as pets and allowed them to sit on their laps (so-called “lapdogs”). A common lapdog breed, the Maltese, a long, silky-haired dog that was a highly pampered pet of the noble women of ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece.

As is often the case, the more you investigate a particular idiom, the cloudier its origin becomes. Wherever it originated, it is currently more Southern than East Coast, and your thought about people “putting on the dog” for the White House dinner is the perfect example of something you’d get gussied up for!

Putting on the Human:

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams | jackhenry.com

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: Jack Henry | December 6, 2022

Editor’s Corner: A horse is a horse, of course of course

Dear Editrix,

My dentist mentioned that as we age, there is some gum recession which gives us the appearance of longer teeth, thus leading to the phrase “long in the tooth” meaning “old.”

Do you know of other idioms like this?

D. Davis

Wow, it sounds like you have some interesting trips to the dentist! I did a quick search for phrases and idioms meaning “old,” but I quickly got lost reading about horses. Horses? Yes, “long in the tooth” led me to the following idioms and explanations from various sites.

Long in the Tooth

While your dentist applied this phrase to people, most of the explanations I read said that the phrase originates from horses and their teeth. The older a horse gets, the longer their teeth become. Apparently, if you are daring enough, you can figure out (approximately) how old a horse is, by looking in their mouth.

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Of course, looking in a horse’s mouth brought this saying to mind, so I had to check it out and see where it led me. From Idioms by the Free Dictionary:

If you say don’t look a gift horse in the mouth or never look a gift horse in the mouth, you mean that someone should accept something that is offered to them, or take advantage of an opportunity, and not try to find faults or difficulties.

This saying, which dates from St. Jerome’s biblical commentary…on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, is based on the fact that a horse’s age is revealed by its teeth. Looking inside a horse’s mouth therefore will tell you if someone is passing off an old nag for a spry colt. The same expression is found in French, Italian, Portuguese, and other languages.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

And yet another phrase about a horse’s mouth! “Straight from the horse’s mouth” means “directly from the source; firsthand.” According to The Phrase Finder, this idiom originated around the turn of the 20th century and comes from horse racing:

In horse racing circles, tips on which horse is a likely winner circulate amongst punters [KC – In this case, a punter is someone who makes a bet]. The most trusted authorities are considered to be those in closest touch with the recent form of the horse, that is, stable lads, trainers etc. The notional “from the horse’s mouth” is supposed to indicate one step better than even that inner circle, that is, the horse itself.

That’s as far as I got with the horses! If you have another phrase or idiom that you’re curious about, I’m happy to try and track it down. You never know where it will lead!

Mr. Ed?

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams | jackhenry.com

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: Jack Henry | December 1, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Capitalization Rules

Good morning, friends.

Capitalization is one of the stickiest points we editors deal with. The most common problem we see is that people tend to capitalize any word they think is important in a sentence. For example, some folks always capitalize the term “credit union.” However, it should only be capitalized as part of the credit union’s name (for example, World’s Best Credit Union). Job titles are, understandably, another sticking point because you capitalize a job title that precedes the person’s name but not a title that follows a person’s name (see the very last bullet in the list below).

Most languages have strict rules about capitalization, and the rules in English may vary slightly depending on the style guide being used. Although some recent exceptions break conventional capitalization rules for Jack Henry Marketing and presentation material (for example using sentence case rather than title case for titles and headings, and using lowercase letters for our company logo: jack henry), we continue to follow these common rules in our professional writing and client correspondence:

  • Capitalize all names and other proper nouns (a proper noun is a name used for an individual person, place, or organization).
  • Capitalize the first letter of every sentence.
  • Capitalize most words in a title (you can use this Title Case Converter tool to check the capitalization of your titles):

o The first and last words

o All nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs

o Subordinating conjunctions (if, because, as, that, etc.)

o Prepositions that are five or more letters long (about, through, etc.)

o Prepositions that are the first or last word in a title

  • Capitalize days, months, holidays, and time zone abbreviations (ET, PT), but not seasons.
  • Capitalize department names (Accounting, Information Technology, etc.).
  • Capitalize letters in acronyms; however, when the acronym is spelled out, only capitalize the individual words if they are a part of a proper noun (FACTA represents a proper noun: Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act. However, APR stands for annual percentage rate, which is not a proper noun).
  • Capitalize the initial letters of items in a list, the initial letters of column headings, and the initial letters of keys on a keyboard (like Backspace).
  • Capitalize job titles before the person’s name but not after (President Joe Biden or Joe Biden, president of the United States).

And always remember, we do not capitalize a word just to make it stand out or to give it importance. We use italics for that, but we use italics sparingly to ensure that they don’t become meaningless.

And as long as we’re talking about capitalization, I have something to share. My friend, Jane G. enlightened me about the meaning and history of the words uppercase and lowercase, and I was intrigued, so I’m passing the information along.

Have you ever wondered why we call capital letters uppercase letters? The words uppercase and lowercase actually have to do with the trays, or cases, that stored letters used in letterpress printing. According to Wikipedia, “Traditionally, the capital letters were stored in a separate drawer, or case, placed above the case holding the other letters (this is why the capital letters are called ‘uppercase’ characters, and the minuscules are ‘lowercase’).”

Well, paint me green and call me a cucumber! Who knew? Thanks, Jane!

Here are some visuals to bring it all together:

Letterpress drawers

Antique letterpress printing cabinet

Pair of printer’s cases

Have a wonderful day!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns she/her/hers

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Don’t want to get Editor’s Corner anymore? Click here to unsubscribe.

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NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
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Posted by: Jack Henry | November 29, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Punches

Just about a year ago, I shared a list of words with you that were about left and right handedness, ambidexterity, and the prefixes related to those words. One of you sent me some additional words related to hands—more specifically fists and fighting—which I am finally getting around to. I hope you enjoy these pointy and punchy words, their definitions, and their etymologies. The definitions are from Merriam-Webster; the etymologies are from the Online Etymology Dictionary.

John R., thank you for the list!

Word Definition Etymology
expunge 1a: to strike out, obliterate, or mark for deletion (as a word, line, or sentence)

b: to obliterate (a material record or trace) by any means

c: drop, exclude, discard, omit

"to mark or blot out as with a pen, erase (words), obliterate," c. 1600, from Latin expungere "prick out, blot out, mark (a name on a list) for deletion" by pricking dots above or below it,
impugn 1 obsolete

a: to assail physically: fight

b: oppose, resist

2: to assail by words or arguments: call into question: make insinuations against

"to fight against, assault, attack," from assimilated form of in- "into, in, on, upon" (from PIE root *en "in") + pugnare "to fight"
poignant 1: painfully sharp with regard to the feelings: piercing, keen

2: very moving: deeply affecting

late 14c., poinaunt, "painful to physical or mental feeling" (of sauce, spice, wine as well as things that affect the feelings), from Old French poignant "sharp, pointed" (13c.), present participle of poindre "to prick, sting," from Latin pungere "to prick, pierce, sting," figuratively, "to vex, grieve, trouble, afflict"
pugnacious having a quarrelsome or belligerent nature: thriving on challenge: aggressive, truculent "disposed to fight, quarrelsome," 1640s, a back-formation from pugnacity or else from Latin pugnacis, genitive of pugnax "combative, fond of fighting," from pugnare "to fight," especially with the fists, "contend against," from pugnus "a fist"
punch to prod with a stick or other blunt object : poke

b: to act as herdsman of:drive

c: to push (material) through a foundation piece with a needle

2a: to strike with a hard and usually quick forward thrust especially with the fist

"to thrust, push; jostle;" also, "to prod, drive (cattle, etc.) by poking and prodding," late 14c., from Old French ponchonner "to punch, prick, stamp," from ponchon "pointed tool, piercing weapon" (see punch (n.1)).

Meaning "to pierce, make a hole or holes in with a punch, emboss with a tool" is from early 15c.; meaning "to stab, puncture" is from mid-15c. Related: Punched; punching.

Specialized sense "to hit with the fist, give a blow, beat with blows of the fist" is recorded by 1520s. Compare Latin pugnare "to fight with the fists," from a root meaning "to pierce, sting."

punctual 1a: of or relating to a point

b: of or relating to punctuation

2: having the nature or a property of a point

a: belonging to a definite point of time

b: having fixity

c. 1400, "having a sharp point; producing punctures," senses now rare or obsolete, from Medieval Latin punctualis, from Latin punctus "a pricking" (from nasalized form of PIE root *peuk- "to prick").
punctuate 1: to mark or divide (written or printed matter) with punctuation marks to clarify the meaning and separate structural units

2: to break into or interrupt at intervals

in reference to writing and printing, "to indicate pauses or stops by conventional signs" called points or marks of punctuation, 1818, probably a back-formation from punctuation. Hence, figuratively, "interrupt at intervals" (1833); "to emphasize by some significant or forceful action" (1883). Related: Punctuated; punctuating. An earlier, rare or isolated use, of the word in the sense of "to point out" is attested from 1630s, from Medieval Latin punctuatus, past participle of punctuare, from Latin punctus.

Mmm. I think I’d rather have this punch:

The original drink in the Indian subcontinent was named paantsch. The word punch may be a loanword from Hindi पाँच (pāñć), meaning "five", as the drink was frequently made with five ingredients: alcohol, sugar, juice from either a lime or a lemon, water, and spices.

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams | jackhenry.com

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: Jack Henry | November 22, 2022

Editor’s Corner: There, Their, They’re

Good morning, folks!

Many of you have written to me in the last few months to suggests topics you would like me to cover. A lot of the suggestions are things I’ve already written about over the past ten years, but then I remembered: some of you have joined us more recently than that! I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of these topics—particularly those that cause the most pain. Wait, that sounds horrible. Let’s just call them topics that are beneficial to review. If you have anything in particular you’d like me to cover, feel free to send your ideas to me at kchurch.

Now for today’s subject, the troubling homonyms there, their, and they’re.

Hopefully, this information will help!

There shows location.

  • He is sitting over there.
  • Stay there and I will come and get you.
  • Is the store close enough that I can walk there and back in an hour?

Their shows ownership. (Possessive form of “they.”)

  • Ask Jane and Wally if you can go to their house.
  • The kids sang their loudest at the recital.
  • Dusty and Rusty wrapped their knees in bubble wrap before starting to re-roof the house.

They’re is a contraction for “they are.”

  • They’re going to the mountains this weekend.
  • When Fritz and Adam are together, they’re always happy.
  • They’re going to get a new dog soon.

And a joke we editors hear a lot:

I hope you have a lovely day!

Kara Church | Technical Editor, Advisory | Technical Publications

Pronouns: she/her | Call via Teams | jackhenry.com

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: Jack Henry | November 17, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Your Possessives Have a Hierarchy

Good morning, folks. I recently read an article about the ways we form possessive words. It got me thinking much deeper about how we form them and why we do it the way we do.

We’re all very familiar with showing possession by using ’s (for example, Todd’s hat). The other way we show possession is with the word of (for example, the door of my house).

When I was studying English in college, I don’t remember any professor ever discussing these two forms of possession; but instinctively I, like most people who grew up speaking English, have always followed some implicit rules.

What I’ve learned since my college days is that there is a possessive hierarchy that basically works in decreasing order of humanness. The more human something is, the more likely we are to use ’s; and the more inanimate something is, the more likely we are to use the of construction. The interesting thing is, these are not steadfast rules, meaning that you’re not wrong if you break them, but your sentence will sound odd.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Jane’s car is parked in the garage.
  • The car of Jane is parked in the garage.
    Since Jane is human, we typically say and write, “Jane’s car.” The “car of Jane” just doesn’t feel right.
  • The dog’s fur was matted and dirty.
  • The fur of the dog was matted and dirty.

Animals are closer to humans in the hierarchy than inanimate objects, so most often, we’d use ‘s to show possession. I have often heard “hair of the dog” but only as an expression that means to have an alcoholic drink to stave off a hangover.

  • The temperature of the Pacific Ocean is cold, even in summer.
  • The Pacific Ocean’s temperature is cold, even in summer.

The Pacific Ocean is an inanimate object, so “the temperature of” sounds more natural, even though “the Pacific Ocean’s temperature” doesn’t sound too bad to my ears.

  • The door of the house was wide open.
  • The house’s door was wide open

A door is also an inanimate object so we would most likely use the word of. This example doesn’t seem quite so odd, but the first option just sounds right.

The English language is full of intricacies that we usually don’t even think about—until one curious editor starts digging around and asking questions and opening up worm’s cans (or is that cans of worms?).

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns she/her/hers

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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