Re: punctuation [OT]

On Mon, 25 Feb 2008 10:31:40 +0000, Sam Nelson wrote:

Your way would have, "The lady her bag." which doesn't work.

Working on the principle that women didn't own anything---or not very
much, anyway, it isn't hard to conclude that a trailing possessive `s'
satisfies the huge majority of cases. So that's `The woman her husband
his bag' or `The girl her father his bag', potentially.

I think that's rather spurious logic, really. Women owned a lot of things
- their heads, hands and feet, for a start. I think it's more likely that
"Mrs X'r hair" just didn't survive - as "Mrs X's hair" is easier to say,
and it's not a big sound shift from the "'r" suffix. Language generally
evolves along the line of least resistance, with no real regard to logic.

It doesn't seem at all unlikely that there was that intermediate stage,
where people said "Mrs X'r hair", but it was never recorded - and a
combination of laziness and women's lower importance in society saw it
disappear relatively quickly, in favour of the masculine suffix.

There are, after all, plenty of examples of where the masculine form
predominates, or has predominated. A good example is the use of the word
"man" to mean "people". It's quite easy to imagine that "Mrs X his hair"
would sound quite acceptable. Or at least the contraction of it.