Columns » Words

Words, Sept. 17



Jet skies, smilin' at me . . .

“Tourists move their jet skies out of a marina Monday in Cabo San Lucas as Hurricane Jimena heads toward Mexico's Baja California peninsula.” The plural of ski is skis.


Reading proof the other day, I followed the proofreader's first rule — assume that the writer is wrong — and carefully changed “St. Bernards Medical Center” to “St. Bernard's Medical Center.” I was well pleased with my work until the writer crept up, saw the change and presented evidence — rather loudly — that the official name of the Jonesboro institution has no apostrophe in it.

But why not? The saint's name was Bernard, and there was only one of him. Clearly, what's needed here is a possessive, not a plural. I called the medical center for an explanation, and the euphoniously named Rebecca Raspberry provided it.

For years, the medical center's name appeared in print in various ways, she said — St. Bernard's, St. Bernards', St. Bernards, St. Bernard. Finally, the board of trustees decided to officially dump the apostrophe, in the interest of simplicity and uniformity.


Resolve one question of nomenclature and another pops up. Journalists' work is never done. (An alternate theory holds that it never really begins.) Is the name of the baseball park in North Little Rock Dickey-Stephens or Dickey Stephens? The web site of the Arkansas Travelers, who play their home games there, calls the park Dickey-Stephens. But the Little Rock-North Little Rock telephone directory says the park is “Dickey Stephens,” and so do some sources on the web.

There may have been a Dickey Stephens worth honoring, perhaps an associate of Albert Pike and Rodney Parham, but the ballpark is named for two sets of brothers, the Dickeys and the Stephenses, ballplayers and financiers. Common sense says the name of the stadium is Dickey-Stephens. One sign at the stadium, visible from the street, clearly uses the hyphen. The sign over the main entrance shows a round dot, like a blue baseball, between the Dickey and the Stephens. Hyphenish enough.


Add a comment