More Signs Of The Times

Sunday’s “06880” story about unenforceable, hypocritical or just plain odd street signs struck a chord with John Suggs.

He responded, noting a sign on the Sherwood Island Connector his 7-year-old son Joshua spotted on the last day of school:

“Considering the thousands of times I’ve driven past that sign without noticing the misspelling,” John said, “I want to acknowledge not only my eagle-eye son Josh, but all the wonderful teachers at Greens Farms Elementary School, especially Mrs. Mary Ellen Barry, who have seen to it that our 1st graders know the correct spelling of their school, their neighborhood and the street sign.   Maybe we should send the sign makers back to Mrs. Barry for a makeup lesson?”

Well done, Joshua. And you were probably just being polite not to mention the lack of a space between “Green” and “Farms.”

But wait — there’s more!

Shouldn’t it be “Green’s Farms”? — with an apostrophe — I asked John.

Quickly, he replied:

I just did some quick fact checking on the history of the correct spelling, and discovered a few things.

The elementary school website spells it both ways on different pages of their official web site (click here, then click on “Directions to GFS”).

Wikipedia states:  “Green’s Farms Metro-North Railroad station is one of two New Haven Line stations serving the residents of Westport, Connecticut. The station is located in the Greens Farms area of Westport in the southeastern part of town, and the technically-incorrect apstrophe in the station name dates to New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad ownership of the line. No other entity spells “Greens Farms” with an apostrophe.”

(“06880” notes that Wikipedia itself spells “apostrophe” incorrectly, and hyphenates “technically-incorrect” even though we have always learned that words ending in “ly” should not be hyphenated.)

The neighborhood association, John says, uses the apostrophe — contrary to Wikipedia’s assertion that “no other entity” does.

So does Green’s Farms Congregational Church.

Greens Farms Academy — which, as an expensive private school, should probably know such things — ignores the apostrophe.

John concludes:

Basically it is anyone’s guess as to which version is the “correct” usage now, as opposed to the original usage which appears to have been with the apostrophe.   I, personally, have always spelled it Greens Farms myself — and I am one of the representatives of the GF area on the RTM (District 5)!

So most likely there is a whole other blog surrounding the  “apostrophe versus no apostrophe” debate!

Consider it done.

22 responses to “More Signs Of The Times

  1. It would seem to me that the spelling is related to the etymology of the name. That is, was the land named for a group of farms owned by Mr. and Mrs. Green or was it a pretty pasture of growing things (greens)?

    Returning to Wikipedia as the source of all knowledge, someone has written that it was named for one of the original five settlers of the area, John Green. Therefore, Green’s Farms is the correct answer.

  2. This just in, thanks to alert “06880” reader Lisa Krosse: The “Friends of Sherwood Island State Park” website says either way is okay (click on, then look in the lower left corner).

    I don’t know who died and made them the experts, but it’s interesting nonetheless. And you’ll note they use both spellings at different points on their website.

    And not to fog up the issue any further, but are we sure John Green had more than one farm? Maybe it really is Green’s Farm?


  3. Really Not a Pedant

    It’s been a long time, but I believe “technically-incorrect” is a compound adjective modifying “apostrophe” and therefore eligible for hyphenation. I went through Staples – did the Warriner’s book with Mr. Quinn – and don’t recall a rule about words ending in “ly” and hyphens. But…’s been a long time.

  4. Innocent Bystander

    Greens Farms. It says so on the Post Office and they are never wrong. Nice eye Joshua.

  5. Addison Fletcher

    Green’s Farms. The Post Office is always wrong. Nice eye Joshua.

  6. In Woody Klein’s book ‘Westport Connecticut’ there is an end note on p. 42 that addresses this. He notes that all early records and signs spell it Greens, but then he goes on to use the apostrophe throughout his book, a choice I find odd. He even errs by adding the apostrophe when citing the title of George Jenning’s 1933 book, ‘Greens Farms Connecticut’.
    I say stick to the original spelling, whether done in ignorance of the rules or not.

  7. I will take Wikipedia over Woody.

  8. Michele Wrubel

    The engraved stone above the doorway of the elementary school reads “Greens Farms School” (no apostrophe). When the space was converted from the art center back into a school (1999, I believe), the bronze rededication plaque included the apostrophe and read “Green’s Farms School”. As one of the past PTA Co-Presidents (2003-2005), I can tell you that we tried to be diligent about always using it. Our school directory, for example, does include it. I think over the years, folks just haven’t been as consistent about it.

  9. Wendy Crowther

    To make things more confusing:

    I have a map published by the Westport Historical Society in 1966. The title of the map is: Westport, Green’s Farms and Saugatuck (1648-1933). The WHS claims that the map was reproduced from the book, Green’s Farms, Conn., by George Penfield Jennings, The Squire of Elmstead, 1933.

    The apostrophe is used in the map title and the book title. However, on the map itself, Greens Farms Road is spelled without the apostrophe. The Greens Farms section of town is also listed on the map in large letters – no apostrophe.

    I also have a 1867 map of Westport. Generally, this map doesn’t name roads. It only shows home/business locations and owners. Listed is the location of Green’s Farms Church – apostrophe present.

    Apparently map makers, book authors, and the rest of us, have been confused about Green’s/Greens Farms for at least 143 years.

  10. When you think about it, GREEN Farms makes sense if Green owned it. And therefore, the sign would be right. I always thought the name referred to the lush grass or something farming related and thus, Greens Farms would make sense. Forget it, I am dazed and confused even writing this!!

  11. Linda Smith

    Dan, don’t do this to me. I saw where you said that Wikipedia misspelled “apostrophe” but it sure looked exactly like the way you spelled it … and what I thought was the correct spelling. So your comment sent me to the dictionary and it was only after a lot of headscratching that I figured out that the FIRST time Wikipedia spelled it was incorrect. Egads.

  12. The Dude Abides

    Does anyone really know what time it is?

  13. Dan is absolutely correct about the apostrophe between “technically” and “incorrect,” and the rule that most words ending in ly are not hyphenated. Words ending in ly are adverbs and, therefore, not considered compound adjectives. (Thanks for noting that, Dan. I cringed when I read it.)

    As for Wikipedia, who writes those posts? My assumption is that those who post items on Wikipedia are not necessarily experts or anyone who knows more than the average bear.

  14. Au contraire, many of the people who contribute their time and post on Wikepedia are indeed experts. Encylopedia Britannica know this only too well. Wikepdia has helped millions of people around the world to learn, develop and grow. Wonderful, isn’t it?

  15. Dick Lowenstein

    The subject sign is also perpendicular to Greens Farms Road, and has been reported to the Highway Dept. for repositioning.

    More relevant to this commentary is that the sign on the opposite corner (NE) says GreensFarms Rd.

  16. Michele- was glad to have you chime in, I remember being on the PTA board and your diligence regarding the spelling of GFS. Growing up in this town and having lived on Green’s? Farms Road I cant keep it straight. Guess we’re all right. Funny that w/ all this technology at our hand still no conclusive answer.

  17. After a recent visit to Martha’s Vineyard, I had wondered why it was named as such.
    According to this side note on the topic… officially, There are only a handful of places in the country with a possesive apostrophe. Greens Farms is not a part “officially” of that list

  18. Princeton '82

    I think the sign is “perfect” the way it is: misspelled, grammatically incorrect and crooked. It should be a strong reminder that even in this perfect town, we have imperfections.

  19. Ooh! My favorite subject! As the music teacher at Green’s Farms School I’ve been thinking about this for years. I was out of town (hyphens?) yesterday, or I would have responded sooner. My reasoning for including the apostrophe is that the old onion farms belonged to John Green so it’s Green’s Farms. (P.S. Any comment on Buckley and Bulkley, or did they fix that???)