Let’s make some plurals

Punctuational danger, Will Robinson!

I’m about to reveal a well-guarded secret to you. Are you sitting down? All strapped in? Ready to know a universal truth? Here it is, forthwith:

It’s okay to place an s after proper nouns that end in y to pluralize them. I hereby give you permission. You have Conan’s word that it’s correct. Can you dig it?

What’s not correct, folks (and you know who you are), is to place an apostrophe followed by an s to pluralize, like so:  The Hennessy’s. Apostrophe  s either renders the proper noun possessive or turns it into a contraction. (In other words, “The Hennessy’s” doesn’t mean “the Hennessy family.” It means “that belongs to the Hennessy” or “the Hennessy is,” and you really shouldn’t refer to yourself in the third person like that. You’re not Bob Dole, after all…Are you?) Apostrophe  s never makes any word plural. Easy enough to remember, right?

Did you receive (or send) any holiday greetings addressed like this?

From the Hennessys

Probably not, because what your visual cortex sees when you let an s follow a y is this: Hen – eh – sis, not Hen – eh – sees. (I know. There, there. Shh. Shhhhh.) This physical reaction to the pairing of these two letters is akin to yanking your hand away from a hot stove. Danger, danger! Philosophically, letting a y and an s stand together is tantamount to all-out, cats-sleeping-with-dogs anarchy.

The problem, dear Brutus, lies in the fact that you remember your phonics all too clearly. Well, I’m sure your first grade teacher Mrs. Puffnstuff is very proud that you’ve clung like a leech to this sort of thinking. But now you must let go your aversion. Come into the light. All are welcome. All welcome.



  1. Thanks for the acccurate and amusing explanation. One of my favorite plurals involves proper nouns ending in Y. Why do some folks think the plural of BlackBerry is BlackBerries? I guess they remember the old “change Y to I and add ES” all too well. But don’t remember when to apply it. — Laura (at http://terriblywrite.wordpress.com)

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