This is just a quick post. There was a story going around a few days ago about how a climate scientists named Peter Wadhams believed three of his colleagues had been murdered as part of some sort of conspiracy.
That's not what this post is about. It turns out Wadhams has taken filed a complaint with at least one of the newspapers that ran the story. According to him, he had a near death experience around the same time as his three colleagues died, and for a little while he worried it might not be a coincidence. After he took some time and thought about it, and actually looked at the circumstances of the other deaths, he decided it was just a really weird coincidence.
That sounds understandable. If that's all it was, it was kind of irrational, but being somewhat irrational after nearly dying is quite normal. The only issue is, did he keep believing it? According to the news stories, he did and still does to this day. According to Wadhams today, he doesn't, and he told the newspapers that. In fact, he claims he asked for his comments to be kept off the record because he knew they could be misunderstood/misrepresented to make him sound like a loon. Instead, he claims the papers misrepresented off the record comments to make him sound like a loon.
But I have no idea if he's telling the truth. Maybe he's completely right, and maybe he's owed a huge apology. Maybe his reputation was trashed for no reason other than some journalists being completely dishonest and unethical. Or maybe he's just trying to cover up a PR nightmare. Or maybe there's some other explanation. I don't know. I don't really care at this point. The way I see it, I don't have any evidence to base conclusions on, so how could I draw any conclusions? All I can do is report both sides of the story. I guess I could speculate a little, but I just don't care to when I have nothing to go on.
So you might be wondering why I'm even talking about this. That's a good question. I normally wouldn't. It's just, there's one thing I really care about in this story. You see, earlier I was trying to write a sentence about the complaint Wadhams filed, and... I couldn't figure out how to do it.
Is it "Wadhams' complaint"? Is it "Wadhams's complaint"? Is it "the Wadhams complaint"? How do you make a proper noun possessive if it already ends with an s? I had thought about this question before, but I never came up with an answer I was satisified with.
Most people would seem to write, "Wadhams' complaint," just adding an apostrophe, but that's just confusing. How can anyone interpret that. If you didn't already know who Wadhams was, you wouldn't be able to tell what the name was. Is it a complaint filed by Mr. Wadhams, or is it a complaint filed by Mr. and Mrs. Wadham, the Wadhams? I used to try to get around this by writing it as "the Wadhams's complaint," and I think that works out okay. But that raises a new question. What happens if you want to make Wadhams plural?
For instance, suppose there's a neighborhood where Mr. and Mrs. Wadham own a house. Down the street, Mr. Wadhams lives alone in a house of his own. After a bit of confusion, people sort things out and come to understand they have the "Wadhams' house" and the "Wadhams's house." But them Mr. Wadhams gets married. What do we call his house then?
It turns out there's an answer I never anticipated. Thanks to a user on Twitter linking me to a helpful source, I found out the answer is you make a proper name which ends in s plural by adding -es to the end of it. So Wadhams becomes Wadhamses. And according to the same source, my idea of adding 's to Wadhams to make it possessive is okay. It's not mandatory, but it is allowable.
But that's not all. As the resource I linked to above points out, in the English language, nouns often take on the role of adjective. The resource I used gives the example of "New Orleans cuisine." In that phrase, the proper noun "New Orleans" is used as an adjective. The same could happen with a family name. That means it would also be reasonable to call a house "the Wadham house" or "the Wadhams" house.
So when taken all together, these rules means a neighborhood could have the "Wadham House," the "Wadhams house," "Wadhams' house," the "Wadhams's house" and the "Wadhamses's house."
I love the English language.
Edit: About half an hour after this post went live, I realized I had forgotten about the possibility of proper nouns being used as adjectives. I've slightly edited the post to address that possibility. It just makes things more awesome.