A word thats time is coming

My latest article for The Week is on a word that many of you will not recognize as legitimate. And yet I predict that it will ultimately be standard English. I am talking about thats as a relative possessive, as in the title above. (Do not be misled by the ambiguous title of the article on theweek.com, which I did not write, or the theme image, which I did not see in advance of publication. This article has nothing to do with the contraction that’s for that is or that has.)

The future of English includes an apostrophe-less ‘thats’

8 responses to “A word thats time is coming

  1. I actually feel panicked just looking at an apostrophe-less ‘thats’ now that you have pointed out that the title contains it. Before reading, I didn’t even notice that it was apostrophe-less. Seriously. Someone put clothes on the naked ‘thats’ please! LOL!!

  2. Sorry, but no. Nuh-uh. Not going to let this happen. Especially when they adjusted the definition for “literally” to reflect the many years that word was misused. Nope. That’s is That’s and That’s THAT!

    • I’m not sure how to take your response. The article has nothing to do with the contraction that’s for that is and that has. It is addressing a usage of that’s that is currently considered unacceptable in standard English: as a relative possessive, e.g., in “A word that’s time has come” rather than “A word whose time has come” or “A word for which the time has come.” Are you saying that you find “A word that’s time has come” acceptable and not even remarkable, and object only to “A word thats time has come,” or are you saying you are responding only to your reading of the article title without having read the article – or, for that matter, the paragraph above the article title here on the page?

  3. You make a good case, but after years of reading, writing, and editing seeing “thats” makes something in my gut twist uncomfortable.

    Your argument for “thats” seems logical, but that might not help matters. The English language makes a habit of thumbing its nose at logic.

    Still, you may be right, but I don’t think we’ll see acceptance in our lifetimes. I certainly won’t be using it. Like “alright” and “utilize,” it just doesn’t come naturally to me.

  4. geraldinejones2014

    Can’t say I’ll be first in the queue to start using it – even though you put up some good arguments – but I will be watching for any erroneous use of the apostrophe if others do!

  5. You may have a point, James. My three-year-old just corrected his older brothers: “Thats butt is sticking out, not whose.” I only caught that bit, so I don’t know what the context is, but it obviously seemed pretty natural and correct to him. (Granted, he’s three and still says “goed”, so maybe that’s not evidence in its favor.)

  6. What about whats instead? I may have used it or dreamed that I did.

    • That’s used in the same versions of English that use “what” for that: “This bloke what I saw”; “This bloke whats dog bit me.” Not a contender for standard English, I don’t think, but certainly available dialectally.

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