Dear readers, you will be tickled and impressed to hear that my dear lover and I managed to turn a romantic dinner into an opportunity for a pedantic row on Friday. Why? Well, there was goat’s cheese on the menu, of course. Specifically “chèvre goat’s cheese”, which even with my rudimentary French I can see is quite funny.
But ’twas apostrophes we were arguing about (as you do). Funnily enough it’s an argument I’ve had before, with the chief sub at The Grocer. He likes to make it adjectival, you see – so goats milk, cows milk, subs desk. It was actually this that caused the main part of Friday’s argument, which quickly descended into:
P: “But if you say ‘goats cheese’, that makes cheese a verb – goats can’t cheese.”
C: “You’re being deliberately obtuse!”
P: “But they can’t cheese, that’s ridiculous!”
C: “You’re deliberately misreading – no-one would ever read it that way!”
P: “You’re being too kind! Stop making excuses for people!”
C: [increasingly shrill] “You’re being…” etc etc.
You’ll be glad to know that after the waitress had prised us apart, we eventually made up. Oh it’s all jolly good fun. Much more interesting than arguing about who didn’t put the bin out.
As I see it, there are three arguments here:
- goat’s cheese – goat is singular because we are referring to it as a species; one species.
- goats’ cheese – the milk comes from a number of goats, so we treat goat as plural
- goats cheese – the goat is being used as an adjective to describe the variety of cheese
This morning I put out the following question on Twitter:
The answers have come in thick, fast and varied. Here are the ones I’ve received so far (in reverse chronological order, Twitter-stylee).