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Everything You Need to Know About Indigenous Peoples Day

The headline above comes from the latest edition of TIME magazine.

Modern English no longer cares about 's?
Peoples Day doesn't have to be "Peoples' Day"?

Yoko

This message has been edited. Last edited by: yoko,
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Hi, Yoko.

I think "peoples" is used as synonymous with "communities" here, not as the genitive form of the plural of "person".

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Gustavo, Contributor,
David, Co-moderator
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quote:
Modern English no longer cares about 's?
Peoples Day doesn't have to be "Peoples' Day"?
Hello, Yoko,

Welcome back! I've missed seeing you here lately.

The last time you asked a question, it was concerning whether it is better to use "It is dangerous to swim in this river" or "It is dangerous swimming in this river" -- a question which, considered in light of the more general topic to which it relates, actually deserves a very complicated answer, and I was debating whether to turn it into a research project. Let me know if you'd like me to do that.

I have a massive grammar library, and this is a topic that most of my major grammars would give nuanced responses to. Plus, I have my own views on the matter as a native speaker -- one who knows that, contrary to popular nonnative and learner opinion, many sentences like "It is dangerous swimming in this river" are perfectly correct and extremely common.

Somewhat in keeping with what Gustavo has said here regarding your present question, "Indigenous Peoples Day" needn't be viewed as a mispunctuated possessive construction; it may be viewed as an attributive-noun construction. That is, it needn't be read as equivalent to "their day"; it may be interpreted as "a day for indigenous peoples." And that is in fact what it means.
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quote:
I was debating whether to turn it into a research project. Let me know if you'd like me to do that.


I certainly would!

quote:
contrary to popular nonnative and learner opinion, many sentences like "It is dangerous swimming in this river" are perfectly correct and extremely common.


When I studied preparatory "it" in college long ago, I remember being told that both infinitive and gerund could be equally anticipated by "it" as a grammatical subject. However, I may have come across infinitival subjects more often than gerundial ones in extraposition over all these years, and that may have led me to reply to Yoko (and perhaps to some other members too) as I did. Even so, I'd be willing to change my mind (I have to say that reading your words above, I already have). This is a topic that has always aroused my interest and your research would be more than welcome!
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quote:
I was debating whether to turn it into a research project. Let me know if you'd like me to do that.
*********************

Thank you, David. I would too like Gustavo.

I appreciate your exceptional grammar expertise.
I've known no one with so much English grammar knowledge as you in my whole life.
I really admire you and thank you for your comment on "peoples day".

Yoko
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Yoko,

I haven't seen the TIME edition yet, but I do see that some cities, including Berkeley and Los Angeles in the state of California, have passed resolutions to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples' Day, with an apostrophe after the "s" indicating plural possessive. I am aware that it is spelled elsewhere without the apostrophe. David is correct in saying that this has become a commonly accepted construct, where the noun "peoples" is attributive, but I personally continue to harbor some suspicion that the missing apostrophe has its roots in laziness.

The third Monday of February is a national holiday in the United States, and as such, it is called Washington's Birthday in honor of the first president of the United States to hold office under our current constitution, which actually makes him the 13th person to have the title of President since independence was declared in 1776, and his birthday was actually 22 February, which means that it can never fall on the third Monday, but this isn't the History Exchange, is it?

The point is that, in addition to being a national holiday, it is also a state holiday in most of the several states, but it often goes by different names as such. Three states call it "Washington's Birthday". In four states, the official name of the holiday is "Presidents Day", with no apostrophe. This makes it a plural non-possessive appositive, with the plurality apparently intended to extend the honor to include Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president under the current constitution, whose birthday was 12 February. Many people consider Mr Lincoln to be one of our greatest presidents, if not, in fact, the greatest. Of course, many others consider him our worst for exactly the same reasons.

In nine states, the official name of the state holiday is "Presidents' Day", plural possessive. Advocates of this style claim that this makes it so that the holiday honors all of our presidents.

Ten states officially call it "President's Day". Singular possessive. Just one president to be honored. Please tell me it's not the guy with the comb-over and the mail-order brides.

Also, if singular possessive, plural possessive, and plural appositive are all acceptable, it follows that singular appositive should be also. So why don't any of the states call it "President Day"?

I live in California. On the state level, the official name of the holiday is "The third Monday in February". No joke.

As to Indigenous Peoples Day, with or without the apostrophe, I have mixed feelings. Was Columbus such a hero that he should have a holiday named in his honor? I think not. If he did not personally commit genocidal atrocities, he certainly seems to have turned a blind eye to those under his command who did. The indigenous peoples were here long before Columbus. Why should they celebrate the day of his arrival?

Many Latin American countries refer to it as El Día de la Raza (the day of the race). This appears to refer to the fact that a new race of mixed European and Native American blood was born on the day Columbus’s men landed. In other words, this is a celebration of rape.

All that being said, I certainly agree that the indigenous peoples of the Americas deserve to have a day of recognition, if not a day for each nation (but, we only have 365 days in a year). Columbus Day? Perhaps there is a perverse irony here that is entirely appropriate. Reclaim it! Reclaim the harvest season!
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That's very interesting, DocV.

In my experience, the apostrophe will tend to be omitted after plural nouns, particulary in titles or coined phrases (both of which are to some extent outside of the realm of syntax). What I mean to say is that, even if the apostrophe would be according to strict grammar rules more correct, it may be omitted with plural nouns ending in "s" in the contexts I just mentioned more readily than if a singular noun, or a plural one not ending in "s" (like "children"), were involved.

We also have, for example, the case of Veterans Day.
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Gustavo,

This is a topic that David and I have had a great deal of fun with over the years, possibly beginning with a discussion of Dead Poets Society [sic; note lack of apostrophe], which is one of his favorite movies.

The fact is that I find these holiday names rather arbitrary. If you buy a calendar in the United States, you will probably see these days highlighted:
  • Mother's Day (singular possessive)
  • Father's Day (singular possessive)
  • Children's Day (plural possessive)
  • Veterans Day (plural non-possessive, thus apparently attributive)
Why does "Children's Day" stand out? Because the word "child" has a non-standard plural in English. (As you say, it does not end in "s".)

If "Children's Day" were to follow the pattern of "Mother's Day" and "Father's Day", it should be "Child's Day". Apparently the person who named "Mother's Day" was either functionally illiterate or intended that only one mother on the planet should be honored on that day.

On the other hand, if "Children's Day" were to follow the pattern of "Veterans Day", it should be "Children Day". But this never happens. In any such structure where the plural form of the noun is irregular, it needs to be written as an obvious possessive.

Thus, we also speak (rather, write) of the Teamsters Union (no apostrophe) but the Longshoremen's Union (with apostrophe). These examples, in my humble (right!) opinion, make it clear that these attempts to justify lazy omissions of apostrophes by reclassifying them as appositives are exactly that.

However, no one can argue against the fact that, ultimately, usage makes correct. The appositive construction that David speaks of is well established, and for the most part, it works.

It also provokes questions from people like Yoko from time to time. As it should. C'est notre raison d'etre.
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quote:
These examples, in my humble (right!) opinion, make it clear that these attempts to justify lazy omissions of apostrophes by reclassifying them as appositives are exactly that.


I totally agree. I'd also add that, correct though it is, there is something visually disruptive in finding an "orphan apostrophe" (with nothing following it), which might account for such omissions.

quote:
C'est notre raison d'etre.


Bien sur.
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