When Spelling Your Name Gets Tricky

For most families, making a last name plural is easy enough: you simply add an “s”. Growing up, my neighbors were the Sweets and the Gordons, the Breens and the Lennons. Nothing complicated there. What about my good friends Chris Riccio and John Reilly? Same deal: the Riccios and the Reillys always made me feel right at home. Family names retain their base spelling when we make them plural. While the plural of blueberry is blueberries, the plural of Berry is Berrys.

But what about back at the Walsh home at 331 River Avenue? Just adding an “s” didn’t work for us, though we certainly received mail incorrectly addressed to The Walshs. Ours is a name that needs an “es” to become plural because it ends in “sh”: Walshes. The same is true for names that end in s (Thomases), x (Foxes), z (Valdezes), and sometimes ch (Lolich becomes Loliches, but Bach becomes Bachs).

Of course, this being English, there are inconsistencies and exceptions. Take the rule for adding “es” to last names that end in “s”. Some guidelines advise that if the “s” has a “z” sound, nothing is added to form the plural, especially when speaking: “The Danvers are moving in next door” (not the Danverses); “The Summers are away on vacation” (not the Summerses). But Jones is an exception to that: “The Joneses are trying to keep up with us” (not the Jones).

Some families take matters into their own hands or, more accurately, names. In a thread online, a woman whose married name is Fernandez says that she and her relatives have adopted Fernandi as their own in-family plural, preferring the sound of their mock-Latin treatment to Fernandezes.

Don’t be fooled by names containing a noun that on its own becomes an irregular plural. Fairchild doesn’t become Fairchildren; the Hoffmans aren’t Hoffmen. Just add the “s”. And always avoid apostrophes, unless you are indicating possession. You live next door to the Pantalones; your teen drove over the Pantalones’ mailbox.

And if you are not feeling your pluralization mojo, don’t despair: you can always address the envelope to The Walsh Family.

2 Comments

I’m honored to be mentioned in your post. I remember Georgie girl running up River Ave. to my uncle Jack’s house at the corner but never crossed Moreland. All the best from the Breens to the Walshes.

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