Spending time with family is a big part of the holidays, and thinking about family reminded me of a few tricky little quirks of family names and family words that can confuse people. So today I’ll tell you how to make family names plural (even those that end in “x,” “y,” and “z”), how to refer to more than one brother- or sister-in-law, and how to formally address more than one man and more than one woman.
How to make family names plural
First let’s figure out how to make family names plural. Family names are like brand names: you don’t change the base spelling. For example you make “blackberry,” the fruit, plural by changing the “y” to “ies”; but you make “BlackBerry,” the phone, plural by simply adding an “s” to the end: “BlackBerrys.”
It’s the same with names. “Kennedy” becomes “the Kennedys,” and “Disney” becomes “the Disneys.”
A newsletter subscriber named Julie asked if she should make the last name “Bellman” plural by making it “Bellmen,” and the answer is no. Something like “Bellman” becomes “the Bellmans.” It’s a name, so you still just add “s” to the end.
Some names, however, need an “es” to become plural: names that end in “s,” “x,” “z,” “ch,” and “sh,” for example:
- The Joneses invited you to hold ladders while they hang lights.
- The Foxes decorated four Christmas trees.
- The Alvarezes went to visit their grandmother.
- The Churches sang in the top-hat choir.
- The Ashes got stuck at the train station.
- The Flaxes brought pumpkin pie. (An exception is that you just add “s” when the “x” is silent. For example, “The Devareauxs brought pumpkin pie.”)
The same rules apply to first names. If you have two cousins named Alex, they are the Alexes.
Don’t use an apostrophe to make names plural
Never use an apostrophe to make a name plural.
Never use an apostrophe to make a name plural. With names, apostrophes are for possessives.
- The Joneses’ dinner was a success.
- The Foxes’ house was beautiful.
- The Alvarezes’ grandmother was delighted.
- The Churches’ singing was…