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December 19, 1997

Long-time family friend Beverly Haynes, a native of Fort Smith, Arkansas, advises us that only in Oklahoma is the name of the Arkansas River mispronounced. To folks in her home state, the river is always called the "Arkansaw," even though some of us outsiders pronounce it to rhyme with "Kansas." That is interesting information, but I still don't understand why a certain city in the state of Kansas -- Arkansas City -- also is universally verbalized to rhyme with Kansas, and not Arkansas. That brings up another question which had not occurred to me before: Are natives of the Razorback state called "Arkansawyers" or "Arkansans?" If the former is, correct, that would be consistent with the normal pronunciation of the state name, but if the latter version is correct, that would seem to contradict the correctness of "Arkansaw." Is anyone else getting a headache over all this?

Seems to me I've noticed more that the usual number of incorrect uses of the possessive apostrophe lately. I'm thinking particularly of the apparent confusion over when it is properly added to that handy pronoun, "it." Normally, according to my reference material, we indicate the possessive case of singular nouns by adding an apostrophe and the letter "s" to the noun. If the noun ends in an "s" or an "s"-sound, the possessive "s" may be dropped. For example: "Bill's wife;" or "driver's license;" or "Mr. Jones' office." When a plural noun in the possessive case ends in "s," add only the apostrophe, as in these examples: "ladies' hats; two year's time; the Martins' home." However, when the apostrophe and the letter "s" are added to the pronoun "it," that is NOT a possessive. We correctly use the apostrophe to indicate omissions in contracted words. Examples: "It's (meaning it is)." Or, "gov't." for government or "haven't" for have not.

Even the Daily Oklahoman, a prestigious newspaper with usually impeccable grammatical content, doesn't always get it right. In a large ad on page 2 of a recent edition, reference was made to Cathy Keating's new book, "Our Governors' Mansions." Notice the title of that book has a letter "s," followed by an apostrophe. That tells us that the reference is to a plural noun, not just a singular -- or one governor. The newspaper ad, however, erroneously gave the title as "Our Governor's Mansions," distorting the meaning to indicate that one governor has several mansions. That's incorrect. The book concerns the mansions of ALL governors, so the newspaper's ad is wrong. Watch it, Daily Oklahoman, or the grammar police will be on your case. (P S. The error was corrected in subsequent editions, so the paper is entitled to clemency.)

Now on to another subject .... Congratulations to Mayor Hollingsworth and the city council for bringing in two excellent new aldermen to help manage our city government. Jerry Cronin, of course, is a widely respected former mayor and councilman, and Richard Haynes is a sound thinker with fine credentials. They will be capable representatives of their constituents and valuable members of the city council. They will complete the terms of the late Bob O'Halloran and Tim Bluma, who resigned.