Above the Law

It’s common for a business’s name to be a proper single name in possessive form, as with McDonald’s, T.G.I. Friday’s, or Lloyd’s of London. Such names function as ordinary proper nouns despite their possessive appearance—that is, the -’s is part of the noun itself and doesn’t signify possession. So technically speaking, the correct possessive would be McDonald’s’s, T.G.I. Friday’s’s, etc. (or, in AP style, McDonald’s’, T.G.I. Friday’s’, etc.). But because these monstrosities look hopelessly pedantic, the best solution is to rephrase {the french fries at McDonald’s [not McDonald’s’s french fries]} {the closing hours for T.G.I. Friday’s [not T.G.I. Friday’s’s closing hours]}. But it’s also defensible to write the McDonald’s french fries (with the name functioning attributively)—and perhaps even McDonald’s french fries (though this is strictly illogical).

If T.G.I. Friday’s earnings bothers you, you’re not alone. But the cumbersome pedantry of T.G.I. Friday’s’s earnings is hardly any better. And if someone quarrels with you about the proper form, just refer them to the guidance in Garner’s Modern American Usage (but not to Garner’s’s guidance).

Source:
Garner’s Modern American Usage 646 (3d ed. 2009).

Thanks to Frank Gilstrap, Catherine M. Masters, and Gordon Miller for suggesting this topic.

Bryan A. Garner, President of LawProse Inc., is the most prolific CLE presenter in the U.S., having trained more than 150,000 lawyers and judges. His book — most prominently Black’s Law Dictionary and Garner’s Modern American Usage — have been cited as authority by every state and federal appellate court, including the highest. For more about him, go to www.lawprose.org. To follow him on Twitter: @bryanagarner.