Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothers Day, Mother's Day, or Mothers' Day?

My brother and my dad cooked a delicious Mother's Day dinner last night. The top of the menu for the event read Mothers' Day. It's a holiday for all mothers, right? While the men in my family were grammatically correct, they were not historically accurate. According to this article from the Vancouver Sun, Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother's Day, insisted that the apostrophe in the holiday's name be placed between the "r" and the "s," indicating a singular possessive, "for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world." But, in this day and age, where non-traditional and blended families abound, I think it makes more sense for the holiday to refer to more than one mother. Thoughts? Incidentally, my mother is the best.

40 comments:

Jane Sutton said...

I can see the wisdom of both placements of the apostrophe. I have often wondered about this issue and appreciate your raising it. Almost as much as I appreciate the last sentence of your post.

Charlie Ticotsky said...

wow, i'm glad i put some thought into that given that i knew the family watchdog would be all over it

Aretha Kahlo said...

Ah, very interesting. I would tend to stick with Anna Jarvis on this. My mother (who is actually the best) often responded to anybody who was not a child of of hers giving her a Mother's Day gift by saying to him, "I'm not your mother", a tradition I'm trying to carry on. :-)

Becky said...

I might give a Mother's Day gift to someone who wasn't my own mother, but I did think it was weird when a cashier said, "Happy Mother's Day" to me. She didn't know whether or not I have children!

Anonymous said...

I would stick with Mother's Day. My thinking is that it's the idea of a day to honor mothers, the singular idea of a Mother's Day.

Anonymous said...

The holiday honors more than one person (all mothers) so the name clearly must be a plural form -- either Mothers Day or Mothers' Day.

Asmodeus said...

Why not "Mothers' Day," plural possessive?

Rosina at Middle Ageless said...

My mother, who incidentally was the best, has now passed. However, she would be appalled if she thought Mother's Day were Mothers' Day.

Marni said...

I prefer Mother's Day because I interpret it to mean Day of the Mother, and therefore a singular mother does work because it stands for all mothers. Anyways, that's how my brain works! Also, can you please discuss New Years vs. New Year's? That has been an ongoing debate among my friends and I want to solve it once and for all.

Becky said...

I think it should be "New Year's" because it's short for "New Year's Day" or "New Year's Eve."

diamondanda said...

My daughter and I were discussing this question over Mother's Day brunch. (As you can see, we have decided which usage is correct.) We agreed that it could be either but that we preferred Mother's Day because it is more intimate, and because it is the "day that belongs to motherhood". I see it as singular and possessive, i.e., Mother's Day.

The Font said...

To me, the term could refer to one's own mother only if one usually calls her Mother rather than, say, Mum. And if it refers to the mother (as a symbol of all mothers) then the 'the' would have to be retained in the name of the day: The Mother's Day. So, logically, I have to go with Mothers' Day. I recognize that housemaid's knee and athlete's foot put a dent in my argument, but I would maintain that these do not connote all housemaids or all athletes. And Mothers Day (without an apostrophe) is no more acceptable that potatoes peeler or feetpath.

mike said...

We were just talking about this at work and opted for the pragmatic option of "Mothering Sunday".

In response to Marni above, if you put an "s" on the end of "New Year" I think it should include an apostrophe, as it's short for "New Year's Eve/Day", not a plural. However, I prefer "New Year" (with no "s") but this is probably a British vs. American thing. Likewise I'd always use "anyway" and "sport" rather than "anyways" and "sports". But "maths" is definitely plural!!

Language is fun isn't it :)

skanksta said...

Sorry, but I reckon that everyone preferring 'Mother's Day' over 'Mothers' Day' is being selfish rather than "intimate".

This is a day were everyone celebrates, mothers, mother-figures, step-mothers, remembers dead mothers etc.

Spread the love to all mothers !

Jaynie said...

On Sunday it's my Mother's Day, but it is also, worldwide, Mothers' Day!

Anonymous said...

I whole heartedly agree with Jaynie. And if we go one step further, we are instructed in God's word to honor our mothers (and fathers). So we should not only set aside the second Sunday in May to honor our mums, but we should honor them every day!

Anonymous said...

Why have an apostrophe at all? It is a day to honor our mothers, right? Would it not follow to call it Mothers Day.

christopher said...

I am able to see the knowledge of both placements of the apostrophe. I have regularly marvelled about this issue and appreciate your raising it. About as much as I appreciate the last sentence of your post.

Anonymous said...

It is not a matter of being intimate or of any other feelings you might have at the time....BUT of what is the RIGHT approach to the "problem" dare I say....if we are referring to ONE mother it will be mother's if referring to MORE THAN ONE then it is plural.
simple .....et.el MOTHERS'. Stick to the basic...

Bennett said...

I propose that, like the rest of quirky English, it be both, depending on the context. When in public print and usage, discursive of the general day as applied culture wide, it be "Mothers' Day". However, when discussing the day in terms of celebrating personally, esp. referencing one's own sainted mother, and when used within the family or in the house, it should of course be "Mother's Day".

You know.. technically, you COULD leave off the apostrophe entirely when talking about a Day dedicated TO Mothers and not possessed BY Mothers; "Mothers Day" or the "Day for celebrating Mothers". Like "Flag Day".

If this is convoluted and confusing, then we have done it right as English is just that sort of language :)

Anonymous said...

I dont think it matters where the apostrophe is placed, the day should be only about your mum. Make it a special day for her!

G.Robin Smith said...

It should be the way it was named - Mother's Day. The proper form of Veterans Day has no apostrophe, because that is the way those that created it wanted it. It goes by the wishes of they who create.
Happy Day to All Mothers, those that inspire, care, give, share, nurture and better the world, even if they have not had a child. GregRobin

Anonymous said...

That is so not cool. It is for every mom now whether miss brat-face like it or not. You don't be a douche and just wish moms in your family, do you?

Anonymous said...

I don't agree - I think it should be Mothers' Day. It is a nice sentiment to think that placing the ' before the s but that is not the role of the possessive apostrophe. The function of the apostrophe is to denote singular or plural - no one would argue that Mothers' Day is about one mother - it is about the collective. If we were commemorating a day for soldiers, we would not call it soldier's day but rather soldiers' day. Yes each Mum is special and wonderful and I mss mine terribly, but I would raher go with the correct grammar.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post.

Although it was from 2008, it's still relevant today.

I'll have to read the rest of your blog now.

Anonymous said...

To those who say no apostrophe is needed. Why are you even reading this? Apostrophes are needed to aid the reader in comprehension. The only person who would say it doesn't matter is a reader who has no idea of how to use punctuation correctly. If the writer has no idea it makes life for the rest of us extremely difficult. Should you not be using this site to educate yourself rather than try to incite others to exacerbate the worsening situation of our great language?

Anonymous said...

Mother's Day or Mothers' Day -whichever you choose is a ghastly 'Americanism'! The whole celebration started with Mothering Sunday and was always held prior to Easter. It was hijacked by cynical card companies for commercial reasons and now bears no resemblance to the original reasons behind it. Awful.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant

bloggist said...

I too can see both sides of the argument but prefer to honour all mothers - so Mothers' Day, which of course is really Mothering Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Lent, when people returned to their home or Mother Church.

Ian.

Lima Peru said...

Mother's Day means "Day of Mother". This would be correct if your mum's proper name were "Mother". "The Mother's Day" means "Day of the Mother". You would be correct then if you said "Happy The Mother's Day". Obviously, the correct usage is "Mothers' Day". It means "Day of Mothers" and therefore "Happy Mothers' Day" is correct. Sorry, Ms. Jarvis. Maybe you could go buy some tomato's.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous from February 21, 2013, points out, "apostrophes are needed to aid the reader in comprehension." I agree with this sentiment, but draw exactly the opposite conclusion from it!!

Is anyone actually going to be confused by someone writing "Mothers Day" in place of "Mother's Day" or "Mothers' Day?" No, the idea is absurd. No one is going to say, "I know when 'Mother's Day' is, but what is this 'Mothers Day' you speak of?"

Since apostrophes are used to aid comprehension, but no ambiguity is created by "Mother's Day," "Mothers' Day," or "Mothers Day," all three are acceptable.

Anonymous said...

I like to write Mothers' Day. I send a card to my mom and to my mother-in-law, but I am a mother, too. I think of it as a day to honor all mothers, not just your own.

Anonymous said...

The founder of "Mother's Day" asked that it be spelled with the apostrophe before the 's'. The holiday was trademarked with this name, signed into legislature (in the USA anyway) with an apostrophe before the 's'. You will never see a Halmark card writing this holiday any other way. So, if you're referring to the holiday, it's "Mother's Day" - whether or not you agree with the grammaticality of this is irrelevant when writing the holiday name in a professional context. It is a proper noun trademarked as "Mother's Day".

Anonymous said...

If you prefer to write Mothers' Day, does that mean you won't buy a greeting card that says Mother's Day on it? I honestly can't think of a greeting card that didn't use "Mother's Day".

Miss T. said...

Let's not forget our collective nouns...like band, team, choir. These nouns refer to a group, and so does founder. If your founder, even if there were multiple acted as a group, then the noun is singular referring to the group.

Anonymous said...

Even if we are going with the original Mothering Sunday, as is still 'official' in the UK, we'd still have some grammatical confusion as, at least in modern usage, it reads as a Sunday for mothering, while the intention is obviously for a Sunday on which we celebrate mothering.

When it comes to the apostrophe question, until I read this I'd never known it was originally 'Mother's Day' and that is the only form of the three that I would have said 'definitely not that one'. Now that I know, I have to agree with those that say it is what it is no matter what we think. That said, to me 'The Day of Mothers' (Mothers Day) and 'The Day belonging to Mothers' (Mothers' Day) both, equally, make more sense; I've always gone for the latter myself, on the rare occasions I actually have to write it.

Well done on this. There aren't many topics that keep going for the best part of five years! :)

Anonymous said...

Mothering Sunday is the correct expression, and it is very annoying when trying to buy a card for this day, as almost all cards are for Mother's Day.
Mothering Sunday is a religious celebration during Lent, when people returned to their home and 'Mother Church'. It is always referred to and celebrated as 'Mothering Sunday', in the Church of England.

Anonymous said...

Several points:

(1) There is an American, almost 'branded' version of Mothering Sunday called 'Mother's Day' so I understand the logic of Americans calling it thus.

(2) As for the other three uses, it depends entirely on context but the one that makes the most sense is probably 'Mothers Day'. It could be my mother's day, or all of our mothers' day, but if we're just to refer to a day of the year for which we think about mums then it's Mothers Day (like Christmas Day, Easter day, Veterans Day, Labor Day etc.)

Anonymous said...

I don't think it should be based on what u feel or prefer.... it depends on the context.

Anonymous said...

i completely agree with this. it depends on the context