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Is it Churchs Ferry or Churches Fairy?

By Staff | Aug 6, 2010

“I want to complain about the minutes of our carrot meeting,” Little Jimmy announced as he joined the town’s 13 electors at the first special special meeting of the Community Homeland Security Committee convening in the cool northwest corner of the community hall. The bylaws prohibited meetings more often than monthly unless they were designated as special special meetings.

“When I said Churchs Ferry had vegetable days, I did not say Churches Ferry like it says in the minutes,” Little Jimmy asserted. The 17-year-old was the town’s intellectual, now on his seventh college major via the Internet. “The minutes need amending,” he insisted.

“Well, you slurred your speech so I couldn’t tell whether you were saying churches or churchs,” responded Chief Alert Officer Garvey Erfald who doubled as the committee’s recording secretary.

“It’s wrong either way,” blurted Johann Kerianski, a fairly well-read scholar on North Dakota. He had just finished reading North Dakota Name Places written by Mr. Douglas Wick of Bismarck. “They are possessives without apostrophes.”

In the back row, Old Sievert leaned over and asked Holger Danske. “What is an apostrophe?”

“Remember. We got that grammar stuff in the fourth grade,” Holger replied.

“Fourth grade!” Old Sievert exclaimed. “I didn’t know there was a grade after third. My mother just said ‘enough is enough’ and I thought I had graduated. I guess she wasn’t much for higher education.”

“This worries me,” interjected Chairman Ork Dorken. “How do we know whether we’re talking about Churchs Ferry or Churches Fairy?”

“Better not talk about fairies or the mayor will have to go to Washington to explain what we meant,” Madeleine Morgan warned. She knew that Mayor Mort had drafted a proclamation stating the city’s policy on “don’t ask, don’t tell” but he didn’t want anyone to know about it.

“If Churchs Ferry was spelled proper with an apostrophe, we wouldn’t have this confusion,” Johann grumbled. “And there’s no reason they couldn’t have an apostrophe. Reile’s Acres over by Fargo has one. But then Captains Landing by Mandan doesn’t have one. It makes a mockery out of the English language.”

“Who is in charge of apostrophes is what I want to know,” Hank Dvorchak inquired impatiently.

“It’s the government,” Little Jimmy replied. “Churchs Ferry used to be Church’s Ferry but the government took the apostrophe away and left the town grammatically deprived.”

“Well, it’s a dead issue. With Devils Lake rising, the government bought the town so the 10 remaining residents can hardly get an apostrophe,” Madeleine concluded.

“Forget apostrophes. What was this meeting called for?” Holger demanded to know.

Quiet settled over the room. It was a challenging question. As one gray head turned to the other, they realized no one could remember.

“Do we have time to talk about it’s and its?” Little Jimmy pleaded.

“Its too late,” Ork responded firmly and adjourned the meeting.

Omdahl is a UND professor emeritus in political science and a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota.

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