When “Jones” is the first word in your brand name, shouldn’t you know how to conjugate the word properly?
That seems not to be the case with Jones New York, the namesake brand of a Fortune 500 retail conglomerate.
Screen shot from the Jones New York website.*
The same image and headline appear in a two-page ad in the September issue of Vogue (pages 190-191). Lavish styling, pricey photography, expensive ad buy. Too bad a few dollars weren’t left over to pay a proofreader.
Here’s the thing: The idiom is “Keeping up with the Joneses.”** Joneses is the plural of Jones, and it follows the rule about regular plural formation: If a word ends in a pronounced S—as opposed to the silent S of some French names like “Dumas”—add -es.
Not an apostrophe.
So maybe this apostrophized name is a possessive? According to some usage guides (notably the Associated Press Stylebook), words that end an S become possessives with the addition of an apostrophe. According to others (notably the Chicago Manual of Style), they need an apostrophe and an S: Kansas’s, Dickens’s, Morris’s.
But whichever guide you follow, a possessive noun has to possess something. We might say, for example, that we’re keeping up with the Joneses' circus skills. In the ad, however, nothing is being possessed.
Enough? Enough. After all, I still have 770 pages of the Vogue September issue to plow through. Who knows how many usage goofs lie ahead?
* The dress is $399, comes in sizes 2, 4, and 6 only, and won’t ship until September 14—and then it’s a final sale (no refunds or exchanges).
** According to the biographer of the novelist Edith Wharton, “keeping up with the Joneses” was coined in reference to Wharton’s very wealthy aunt, Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones.