Though the Arkansas Times editorial page has remained silent on the issue — too hot to handle, I suppose — Times executives have authorized me to announce that the Times vigorously supports a resolution now before the legislature to declare “Arkansas’s” the correct spelling of the possessive form of our state’s name. At press time, the resolution had been approved by the House of Representatives and was awaiting action by the Senate.
Rep. Steven Harrelson of Texarkana is the sponsor of HCR 1016. Responding to a constituent who expressed a preference for “Arkansas’ “, Harrelson explained in an e-mail that the silent “s” at the end of “Arkansas” necessitates the addition of another “s” to achieve the proper sound. He wrote, persuasively, “According to the style manual published by the New York Times, the spelling of our state in its possessive form should be Arkansas’s, and as a matter of fact, the manual uses the word as an example of using the apostrophe and an ‘s’ when a name ends with a sibilant letter that is silent.”
Even more important than the New York Times’ judgment is that of native authorities. The Arkansas Times uses the “s” after the apostrophe. So did the old Arkansas Gazette, which was writing “Arkansas’s” before the territory became a state. Most importantly of all, so does Parker Westbrook of Nashville, universally acknowledged as the leading authority on the possessive of “Arkansas.”
On the other side of the question are a handful of cranks. Under the circumstances, a unanimous vote for HCR 1016 is not too much to ask.
Since discussing larrup in last week’s column, I’ve learned that Max Baer, a heavyweight prizefighter of the 1930s, was known as the Livermore Larruper, because he lived in Livermore, Calif. Success With Words says that larrup had meant to beat or thresh since 1839, “from the Dutch larpen, flail.” Baer larruped enough opponents to hold the heavyweight championship briefly, before becoming one of the many who suffered a larruping at the hands of Joe Louis.