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I'm going to risk making a fool of myself here, but it seems to me
that all the examples Ted listed 1 through 21 are inanimate objects
named after people. 22-24 are animals, although my Mammals of North
America guidebook lists it as Dall's Sheep and Douglas's Squirrel, not
Dall Sheep or Douglas Squirrel. The Weddell Seal...well, who knows
what's going on there.
It just seems to me that there may be an additional rule at work here,
that animate things named after people use the apostrophe'd form
preferentially, while inanimate things preferentially do not. That may
seem a bit cumbersome, but it is by no means inconsistent or unusual.
Many languages have special usage rules that apply differently to
living things than they do to non-living things, so I'm not sure why
English needs to differ from that standard.
FWIW, my Mammal guide routinely lists animals named after people using
the apostrophe'd form, so the convention surely predates the AOU's
adoption of it.
> Hello, Birders.
> Consider all of the following:
> 1. Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
> 2. Curtis Institute of Music
> 3. Turner Field
> 4. Obama administration
> 5. Messersmith case
> 6. Burger court
> 7. Johnny Carson show
> 8. Aunt Jemima syrup
> 9. Disney Channel
> 10. Erlenmeyer flask
> 11. Doppler effect
> 12. Fourier transform
> 13. Heimlich maneuver
> 14. Golgi apparatus
> 15. Salk vaccine
> 16. Martin Luther King Boulevard
> 17. Roberto Clemente Drive
> 18. Jerry Tarkanian Way
> 19. Lincoln County
> 20. Jefferson Township
> 21. Washington Borough
> All of the preceding are named for some person. My guess is, all of the preceding look basically "normal" to you. Now, how about the following:
> 22. Dall sheep
> 23. Douglas squirrel
> 24. Weddell seal
> And now for the kicker:
> 25. Steller's Jay
> Why? Why do we do that? Why do we write Steller's Jay, with an apostrophe-s? Why isn't it Steller Jay? After all, we don't write or say Turner's Field, or Doppler's effect, or Jefferson's Township. Well, the reason--the only reason--is because the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) says so.