Posted by: cochinblogger | February 12, 2010

Swastika Over Jew Town

This article (link above) is a fascinating look at the non-Nazi swastika. The swastika is a hoary symbol in India, and is ubiquitous. On a visit to Mattancherry last year, I captured this telling picture on the street leading to the famous synagogue. (The Cochin Oil Merchants Association deserves a congratulatory pat on the head for spelling the word laboratory correctly. The apostrophe, though, sticks in the throat.)

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  1. Er, why do you say “The apostrophe, though, sticks in the throat”? This is a perfect use of the apostrophe! It is an association that belongs to merchants, thus “merchants’ association”. Surely you don’t think they should have written “merchant’s association”, which would mean an association of just one merchant. 🙂
    (“Merchants association” may work; but “merchants’ association” is better and clearer.)

    • You have raised an interesting point. As you say, Cochin Oil Merchant’s Association would be plain wrong. So the choice is between Cochin Oil Merchants’ Association and Cochin Oil Merchants Association. To some extent, this is a question of how one thinks of such an association. Does one think of the association as belonging to the merchants? If so, use the apostrophe to show possession. On the other hand, I prefer to think of the association not in terms of proprietorship but as serving the merchants, so I prefer to drop the apostrophe and regard the plural noun “merchants” as an adjective attributively modifying “association.” Both forms are correct (though the Chicago Manual of Style prefers the apostrophe). However, the apostrophe is better not used with a proper noun (again, per the Chicago Manual of Style). Thus, it’s Publishers Weekly and not Publishers’ Weekly.

      • Yes.
        I very strongly prefer “Merchants’ Association”, but you may have different preferences. The issue is clearer if we use plural nouns not ending in s: “children’s school” or “children school”? “Working Women’s Association” or “Working Women Association”? “Cochin Salesmen’s Club” or “Cochin Salesmen Club”? In each case I prefer the version with the possessive (and hence apostrophe), but you may prefer the plainer version.
        (It would be an interesting exercise to compile a list of names of associations in the real world!)

        BTW, thanks for this photograph. 🙂 I found this blog looking for it.

  2. […] Also see Swastika Over Jew Town. […]

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