Written by Todd DePastino
What’s the proper punctuation of “Veterans Day”? It’s a question of grammar.
Keep in mind, grammar is arbitrary and often doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Most people make their meaning known without following strict rules of grammar. When Woody Guthrie sang, “I Ain’t Got No Home in this World Anymore,” no listener went away confused by the double negative or the nonstandard “ain’t.” And no one was probably impressed by the proper one-word use of “anymore.”
Still, grammar errors in public discourse can distract from a message.
With Veterans Day, the common mistake is referring to it in the singular possessive as “Veteran’s Day.” This construction, on the face of it, doesn’t make much sense. Which veteran is the day meant to honor? My Uncle Mike? The head of the VFW?
A more logical choice would seem to be the plural possessive “Veterans’ Day,” a day belonging to all veterans.
In fact, Veterans Day is not a possessive at all, and no apostrophe should adorn the term. The word “veterans” in Veterans Day is used in the attributive case, not the possessive, meaning that the word functions as an adjective modifying “day.” It’s an adjunct noun telling us what day it is. It doesn’t belong to veterans. It exists for us to honor veterans.
I realize, of course, that I’m being more than a little peevish in highlighting this grammar distinction. Like I said, grammar rules are arbitrary and, most of the time, inconsequential.
The grammar lesson over.
See you on Mother’s Day.