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Names with apostrophes

As the apostrophe did not arrive in English until the 16th century, it should not be a surprise that a great many place names with a possessive slant do not feature apostrophes at all.

From All Souls College, Oxford to St Andrews in Scotland, our humble little punctuation mark is notable by its absence, presumably as they were named a long time before its presence in the language.

It can lead to some strange contrasts.

For example, leafy St James’s Park in London enjoys the s that the hardy Geordies insist St James’ Park in Newcastle does not need.

Other examples of place names with or without apostrophes

Land’s End (yes); John O’Groats (no)

The Queen’s College, Oxford (yes); Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (no)

Lord’s Cricket Ground, London (yes); Earls Court, London (no)

St John’s, Canada (yes); St Kitts in the Caribbean (no)

Classical names

Perhaps reflecting the conservative background of the classics, names from ancient Greece or Rome ending in s or –es take only the final apostrophe and no s.

For example, Hercules’ lion pelt or Xerses’ mighty Persian army illustrate the lingering influence of older traditions. Moses’ and Jesus’ too are accepted as correct, presumably for similar reasons.

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