2. The Use of Apostrophes in Geographical Terminology


Apostrophes are commonly used in language to show possession or to indicate missing letters in words. However, their usage can become quite tricky when it comes to geographical terminology. The purpose of this article is to clarify the use of apostrophes in geographical names.

Firstly, the use of apostrophes to show possession in geographical names has become a source of debate. Many people believe that apostrophes should not be used at all, as they are not necessary and can be confusing. For example, instead of “St. John’s Island,” some argue that it should be written as “St. Johns Island.” This is because the island does not belong to St. John, but rather the name is simply stating the location of the island.

However, others argue that apostrophes should be used in geographical names to show possession. For example, in “Martha’s Vineyard”, it is clear that the island belongs to Martha, and it is a widely accepted and commonly used name. Another argument for using apostrophes in geographical names is to distinguish between similar sounding names. For instance, “Lake Anderson” could refer to a lake named Anderson or a lake belonging to a person named Anderson. By adding an apostrophe, we can differentiate between the two – “Lake Anderson’s” would indicate possession.

The use of apostrophes also becomes contentious when it comes to plural names. In general, when a word is plural, an apostrophe is used after the “s” to indicate possession. However, in geographical names, it is common to omit the apostrophe after the “s.” For instance, “Philippines’s capital” may be written as “Philippines capital.” This could be due to the fact that geographical names are often derived from other languages, and these languages may not use apostrophes in the same way as English does.

Another issue arises with the use of apostrophes in geographical names that end in “s.” For example, should it be “Iceland’s coastline” or “Iceland coastline”? In this case, the general rule is to add the apostrophe after the “s” to show possession, but it can also be written as “Iceland coast.” Both forms are acceptable, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific style guide being followed.

It is also essential to note that the use of apostrophes in geographical names can vary depending on the location. For instance, the United States and Canada tend to use more apostrophes in their geographical names compared to the United Kingdom.

In some cases, apostrophes in geographical names can be a matter of tradition. For example, the city of St. Petersburg in Russia is often written as “St. Petersburg,” while in English-speaking countries, it is commonly referred to as “St. Petersburgh.” The discrepancy is due to the historical influence and spelling conventions of the language.

In conclusion, the use of apostrophes in geographical terminology is a complex and contested issue. While there are general rules and guidelines, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific style guide being followed. It is crucial to consider the context and history behind a geographical name before deciding whether or not to use an apostrophe. As with any aspect of language, consistency and clarity are key, and the use of apostrophes in geographical names should serve to enhance understanding rather than confuse it.