St Thomas’ Hospital or St Thomas’s Hospital?

In the comments to a previous post, reader katypea asks the following:

“St. Thomas’ Hospital” (as per the directional signage around Waterloo) or “St. Thomas’s Hospital” (as per my sheer editorial common sense). Please tell me i won the arguement with The Boyfriend last night…?

It’s an apostrophe question many people struggle with, so I thought my answer warranted a post of its own.

The rule is simple: use ‘s if you pronounce the second s, but just add the apostrophe on its own if you don’t.

For example, when I worked as a writer at UBS I might easily have written a sentence like this:

Huw Jenkins’ appointment as the CEO of UBS’s investment banking division was announced last night.

So yes, katypea, your editorial good sense was correct. If you fancy launching a campaign to have the signs changed, I’m in. Just watch how you spell “argument”!

12 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. real gent says:

    so it’s not so much a question of if the apostophe is to be deployed. it is a question of how. personally i’m all for wanton’ undeserved apostrophical abuse.

  2. Wanton undeserved abuse sounds rather ungentlemanly for a real gent.

  3. katypea says:

    I’m mortified. I consider myself severely (and deservedly) spanked for that little oversight.

  4. katypea says:

    Your sentence could then have been quickly followed by: Huw Jenkins’ departure from UBS’s investment banking division was announced the next week…

  5. Ha, ha – yes, that irony was not lost on me!

  6. Elaine says:

    Why don’t you just say Thomases!

    Or. To my Asses

  7. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Clare, I’ve given you the Premio Dardos Award. Check my blog for details!

  8. Pez says:

    I know I’m late to the party here, but I saw this linked from the latest blog post, and I wanted to ask…

    What about place names? I know that St James’s Park in London takes the ‘s, but St James’ Park in Newcastle doesn’t. Couldn’t St Thomas'(s) be similar to the Newcastle United stadium in this respect?

    Love the blog, by the way. It’s like someone took the language rants out of my head and put them on screen.

  9. Thanks for popping by, Robert. Interesting that there are two varieties for “St James”. The rule of thumb that I was taught was to write it as you pronounce it, but clearly that doesn’t work here – unless Novacastrians pronounce it differently to Londoners? Horrifically, there are moves to drop the apostrophe altogether from place names in order to avoid the confusion. See this post.

  10. Interesting post. It made me get my Judith Butcher out (The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, etc, 3rd edition). She refers to Hart’s Rules (39th edition) which:

    …recommend[s] that in English names ‘s should be used in all monosyllables and disyllables, in longer words where it sounds right; however, the s is usually omitted when the last syllable is pronounced iz: Bridges’, Moses’, but James’s, Thomas’s.

  11. Chris Charteris says:

    You completely ignore the fact that St Thomas’ Hospital is names after not ONE but TWO St. Thomases. Ergo it is a plural ergo the apostrophe goes at the end!

  12. Chris Charteris says:

    Further to my previous comment…this is what the hospital itself says:

    St Thomas’ Hospital Name

    The hospital newsletter in 2004 claimed that plural s’ is grammatically correct, as “there are two men called St Thomas linked to the hospital’s history: Thomas Becket and Thomas the Apostle” (A hospital belonging to two men, both called Thomas, would be Thomases’ so the name change in the late 20th century is considered by some to be a simple mistake).
    Plaque indicating name included singular genitive s’s in the past

    Within the South Wing of the hospital there are a number of late Victorian brass plaques headed “St Thomas’s Hospital” i.e. using singular genitive. However, the medical school used the singular genitive s’s; the explanation given for this was that as the medical school of the hospital it was called “St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School” (although following this logic it should perhaps have been called “St Thomas’ Hospital’s Medical School”)

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