Blog Post

Pesky possessives

That day for mothers is fast approaching, and with it comes a possessive apostrophe question. Should you wish your mother:

  • Happy Mothers Day,
  • Happy Mother’s Day, or
  • Happy Mothers’ Day?

The widespread consensus appears to be for Mother’s Day. That’s what you’ll find on cards, in ads, and on most of the signage in shops. That makes it a day for mother.

Mind you, last week I read about a restaurant chain that’s offering a special Mother’s Day breakfast, with a free kids banquet. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to take too much notice of the apostrophes used in advertising.

For me, the day isn’t just a day for mother. I think of it as a day for mothers … all mothers. A day when, yes, you might celebrate your own mother, but nearly all mothers are celebrating. It’s a day of collective consumption and celebration – when all mothers expect (want) to be pampered.

That makes it Mothers’ Day … with the apostrophe showing the plural possessive.

And even in the face of everyone else sticking to the singular Mother’s Day, I’ll continue to use my apostrophe to show the plural possessive.

Part of my rationale is to experiment with replacing ‘mother’ with other collective terms, and see whether they sound sensible. For example, I think we’d have a Children’s Day, but not a Child’s Day; and we’d have a People’s Day, not a Person’s Day. In Brisbane, we’re quite comfortable with the idea of a People’s Day – we have one at our Exhibition every year.

So for me, it’s Mothers’ Day. Unless we want to go with the traditional British form of ‘mothering Sunday’.

Have a good one mums. (And if you’re wondering why I’ve capitalised Mothers’ Day throughout – it’s simply to provide a visual distinction for the name, instead of messing everything up with single quote marks.)

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