The Case of the Mysterious Apostrophe

The Case of the Mysterious Apostrophe

It was a Wednesday afternoon when it happened. The sun was shining brightly, naively unaware of the travesty I was about to witness. I was driving to my mother’s house for a family dinner, a normal occurrence, when it I saw it. It was a sign, rising high above it’s counterparts, decorated with both a bagel and a pizza, bearing the following words: “Pizagel’s Pizza and Bakery.” 

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As a teacher, it is important to practice what you preach. It’s the same in the workplace. If your supervisor refuses to follow the policies that they have set in place, then you may lose respect in their leadership. One of the ways I encourage my students to respect me, and know that I respect them, is by trying to find real-world application of English Language Arts in ways that are fun and engaging. So, when I drove past the local eatery “Pizagel’s Pizza and Bakery," I knew I had to investigate the origins of this establishment’s namesake. As I’m sure it does many other people, the seemingly unnecessary possessive apostrophe in this business name plagues me. Before starting what shall now be referred to as the “Pizagel Problem,” let’s discuss the technical issues of its grammar. 

In preparation for considering my exploratory research of the origins of the “Pizagel’s Pizza and Bakery” sign, let’s discuss the origins of the grammar mistake to which I am referring. Apostrophes are used for (mainly) two purposes: to show contractions and to demonstrate ownership. 

For contractions, apostrophes are used to denote the missing letters that have been taken out of the word. An example of this would be in the word don’t. Don’t is constructed of the two words do and not. The apostrophe indicates the missing o from the original phrase do not. 

In the cases of ownership, the apostrophe is used alongside an additional ‘s’ to show that a noun owns something--typically another noun. Here are some examples of a singular noun owning something:

Ms. Marshbank owns a pencil.

It is Ms. Marshbank’s pencil.  

Apostrophes can be used slightly differently when indicating that multiple nouns own something. When there are more than one owners, it can sometimes be difficult to clarify how many owners there are, unless you put the apostrophe after the ‘s’. Check out the examples below:

The girl’s own books. 

The girls’ own books. 

Because the ‘s’ is used to indicate that girls is plural, the apostrophe goes after the ‘s’ so that no one is confused about the more than one nature of the number of girls. This same strategy can be used if you are referring to a person with an ‘s’ at the end of their name, to avoid confusion. 

Artemis’s bow is powerful.

Artemis’ bow is powerful.

Both of the two options above are technically correct, however, the second option is easier on the eyes.  

With the current state of the “Pizagel’s Pizza and Bakery” sign, I am left with so many unanswered questions. We can determine that the nature of the apostrophe is possessive from context. But, with this deduction, we are left with many questions for the owners of the establishment:

  • Who, or what, is Pizagel?
  • If Pizagel is a what (not a who) can they really own a pizza and bakery?
  • Why does Pizagel own only one (1) pizza and not a pizzeria?
  • Was this a typo?
  • If it is, will you fix the sign?
  • Am I the only one who has noticed?
  • What do you mean I’m upsetting you?
  • Am I annoying you with all these questions?
  • What do you mean, “I should quietly exit the store”?

A few days after the discovery of this sign typo, with determination in my heart, I went to “Pizagel’s Pizza and Bakery.” I ordered a panini, and asked the friendly cashier if the apostrophe was intentional. She looked at me with clear annoyance and said it was. Friendly cashier, if you are reading this, I apologize for the hindrance. I had to know. 

From our research, the conclusion I have come to is that the name of the building/restaurant is Pizagel! So, indeed, Pizagel is a noun that owns a “pizza and bakery.” However, why it is not denoted as a “pizzeria and bakery,” the world will never know. 

In  all seriousness, my panini was great and you should all check out “Pizagel’s Pizza and Bakery” if you ever get the chance. This blog post is in jest, and hopes to merely demonstrate that grammar does affect people (even if it is in silly ways). 

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If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at You can also find me on Twitter at @msmarshbank, Instagram at @amarshybank, and Linked In at Andrea Marshbank

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