July 8th, 2010

Don't Be So Possessive

Don't Be So Possessive

I've been noticing an odd linguistic quirk which has come up enough times, from enough different people, to make it clear it's not an isolated incident.

I am referring to the tendency to add the possessive "s" to the the names of various establishments where it does not belong.

Sure, you've got restaurants like Rubio's and Chevys, and grocery stores like Wegmans and the former Albertsons, for which the possessive is a proper part of the name (although clearly the apostrophe is dropped in some cases for the sake of branding expediency, but the "s" is there).

Chipotle, on the other hand, is just called Chipotle ... not "Chipotle's" (or "Chipotles"). Similarly, the grocery chain formerly known as Albertsons is now simply called "Lucky" ... not "Lucky's" (or "Luckys"). Yet I've heard both names uttered with the possessive added more times than I can count, especially in the case of Lucky. Somehow, for a lot of people, it's absolutely irresistable: "Lucky" is just "Luckys" or "Lucky's" to them. "I'm gonna stop by Lucky's to pick up some orange juice." (Really? I've never heard of such a place ... but I hear you can get orange juice at LUCKY...)

However, you typically don't hear the same in the case of Safeway ("Safeways?"), Burger King ("Burger King's?"), and many others. So the big question is, what makes some establishment names so prone to invalid possessification, while others seem immune?

Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not mentioning this to be nitpicky or to correct people. I'm legitimately intrigued about what fuels this highly selective, yet very predictable, quirk.