Two articles below:
Girls, Girl's or Girls'' ???
Apostrophes and Girls
GIRLS, GIRL'S or GIRLS' ???
(Investigator 171, 2016 November)
Which title is correct?
The article on Schlocky Horror in Investigator #170 mentions the
• Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory; and
• Werewolf in a Girls Dormitory
Girl's — the
apostrophe before the "s" — occurs in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide.
Posters for the movie have a third variation, Girls', the apostrophe after the
Which is correct, Girls,
Girl's or Girls' ?
The movie was Italian-made (with inferior dubbing), but
consulting the Italian title doesn't help to settle our query since the
Italian title is Lycanthropus.
Girls' Schools or Girls?
Consider schools for girls.
Which position for the apostrophe (if any) is correct in the phrases
"Girls Schools" and "All-Girls Schools"?
Google Search commonly, but not always, gives Girls' Schools, apostrophe after
the "s". However, All-Girls School(s)
mostly appears without an apostrophe.
England has the Girls'
Schools Association and the USA the National Coalition of Girls' Schools.
The Adelaide phone book has a list headed — Schools-Girls'.
Ask a girl
On a question about girls it made sense to consult some
Flinders University student Sophie Seeley seemed ideal
because one of the subjects she studies for her Arts degree is English.
Sophie opted for Girls' but
thought it might depend on context.
Maltin's apostrophe wrong
version of the title, with the apostrophe before the "s", is wrong
because that would refer to just one girl whereas the werewolf went
after multiple girls.
If majority opinion regarding apostrophes wins then the
correct title is Werewolf in a
However, apostrophes often indicate possession or
ownership and students do not own the school they attend. It is really
a School for Girls or attended
The "Dormitory" (which in the movie is a reformatory or
detention centre) seemed owned by the werewolf/superintendant. It was
not the girls' dormitory in the sense that the girls owned it, but in
the sense that they occupied it. It was therefore a dormitory for girls.
Similarly, Girls' Schools are not Girls' Schools in the
sense that girl students own the schools. The schools are really
"Schools for Girls" or
On that basis the apostrophe in the movie title should
be omitted, giving us Werewolf in a
Girls Dormitory (or Werewolf
in a Dormitory for Girls).
There is a caveat to the preceding conclusion.
Language, grammar and spelling are not necessarily
consistent but often based on convention and common usage. The words
"bake", "say" and "paid", for example, are spoken with the same vowel
sound despite the different spelling. Yet we do not declare two of the
spellings wrong. By convention all three are correct.
Similarly, "Girls' Schools" might be correct by
convention although wrong by the above analysis.
APOSTROPHES AND GIRLS
(see "Girls, Girl's or Girls'",
Investigator 170, pp 12-13)
It is good to see material in Investigator about matters
involving my own subject, linguistics!
I realise that the comment about consulting girls was not intended
seriously, and in fact the specific girl consulted obviously has more
relevant expertise than would most girls whom one might select
haphazardly on the streets of Adelaide; but on such points would it not
be useful to consult a qualified linguist (with a specialisation in
English)? Now linguists will not identify some native-speaker usage as
‘wrong' and other usage as ‘right'. We too recognise that usage may not
be consistent; and we strive to make our discipline as scientific as
possible and therefore deal ‘non-prescriptively' with the facts of
usage rather than with opinions as to ‘correctness' (although as sociolinguists we may study such
opinions too). But languages used as English is used do require norms
and a degree of standardisation, especially for written usage. And we
are happy to put our expertise in language to use by way of helping our
communities with such matters; we can offer recommendations for usage in
specific cases, based on broader patterns of usage and on reasoning.
One would expect the 'standard' form Girls' in this context; this is a
'possessive' plural (see below). But, as is illustrated in "Girls,
Girl's or Girls'", informal written usage varies greatly; many
inexperienced writers of English have great difficulty in deciding
which form to use in a given case (the Leave Your Trolley's Here
syndrome!). Actual ambiguity is
rare (it almost always involves singular vs
plural possessive, as in the girl’s books vs the girls’ books) and most
such cases are easily resolved in practice. It is possible that
end the English ‘possessive’ apostrophe (which at one time also
appeared in some non-possessive plurals and was not consistently or
exclusively used in possessives even in careful writing until the 18th
Century) will vanish altogether. Some
company names have already abandoned it (e.g. the booksellers Waterstones), and there are many
anomalies in place-names (Kings Park
in Perth, etc.) which would cease to confuse if there were no
possessive apostrophe at all. (But some
apparent anomalies do in fact display standard usage: Queen's College in Oxford involves
one queen, Queens' College in
Cambridge involves two.)
And, after all, German, which also has possessive -s, uses no apostrophe – though this
is hardly confusing, since very few German nouns have plurals in -s. Afrikaans has solved the problem
by separating possessive -s
off as a separate word (e.g. Jan se
boek, 'John's book').
The English possessive in -'s
(etc.) does not necessarily mark possession in the specific sense of
ownership. There is an entire range of types of 'possession'. Consider
the three-way ambiguity of John's
picture (owned by John, created by John, representing John).
(Some alternative structures are less ambiguous; a picture of John can only mean one
representing John.) The fact that girls attending a school do not
own the school is thus irrelevant to these matters of
The expression All-Girls in All-Girls School functions
adjectivally (parallel with single-sex,
etc.), and in such cases an apostrophe would not be expected. Entries
in phone books such as Schools –
Girls surely have dashes rather than hyphens and thus involve
two expressions not linked grammatically; again, no apostrophe would be
expected. It is true that Girl's would not be standard usage in the
example, either because in the story the werewolf pursues
multiple girls or because multiple girls use the dormitory (or both!).
I hope that this helps, and I would be happy to engage in further
An extract from Adelaide's Yellow