Apostrophe use: Brewers or Brewers' Code

Just wondering if you might be able to shed some light on the below...

There is an association in Germany called "The German Brewers Association" (Deutscher Brauer-Bund); they have a code of conduct which contains rules for promoting/ marketing beer - called the Brewers Code (Brauer-Kodex).

My question is whether Brewers should have an apostrophe after the 's' - as in "German Brewers' Association" and "Brewers' Code".

In my view, it should read, "German Brewers Association" and "Brewers Code"... it doesn't feel right with an apostophe. Sounds ridiculous I know...

The German Association do refer to themselves as German Brewers' Association - see here http://www.reinheitsgebot.de/en/home/german-brewers-association/


  • I believe the use of the apostrophe is correct.

    There does seem to be a modern tendency to omit the apostrophe in text such as the one you highlight. This is an extract from Fowler's:
    The apostrophe is rapidly disappearing in company names and other commercial uses, e.g. Barclays Bank, Citizens Advice Bureau. Though occasionally disapproved of, the practice can be justified as an attributive rather than possessive use of the noun (i.e. Barclays Bank is attributive, implying association with Barclays, whereas Barclays' Bank is possessive, implying ownership by people called Barclay).

  • The German is a compound noun., so the English is a compound of tow words: NOUN + NOUN.

    In the past, English always made the first noun SINGULAR — even when the word didn't otherwise exist: e.g. trouser press, scissor grinder, knicker elastic. If this was still a rule without exception, we might say and write Brewer Association.

    But that rule is no longer productive: new compounds can be made with PLURAL NOUN + NOUN. A law protecting children might in the past be called the Child Act, but today's law is the Children Act.

    So, it's perfectly grammatical to make a compound with the plural Brewers. For speaker and hearer Brewers Association and Brewers' Association sound identical and mean the same thing.

    The S-apostrophe added to plural noun forms was the last convention to be fully standardised — some time in the nineteenth century. I think this is because it's the least useful of punctuation conventions. Yes, there's some point in punctuation such as the German brewers' lorries since it signals a difference from the German brewer's lorries (owned by one brewer), and the German brewers lorries without an apostrophe would be ungrammatical. But to think of the Z-sound as a plural ending does not make the compound ungrammatical.

    That German association was formed in 1871, with mission statement dating back to 1516. It's not surprising, then, that they opted for the most conservative possible English translation. Nowadays, private firms and public bodies are more concerned by the appearance of their signs, logos, letter headings and so on. Brewers' Association with an apostrophe has a rather unfashionable look.

    There are many people in English-speaking countries who believe in strict rules for apostrophes — and many, many more people who cheerfully disregard them. Geographical names are spelled so randomly with or without apostrophes that the US Federal Government has ruled that they should always be spelled without apostrophes.

    There's also the problem that many, many people are confused by apostrophe rules. Leaving them out sometimes creates ambiguity. Well in theory it does — in practice I suspect there's hardly ever any serious possibility that the reader will be confused. So people who insist on 'correct' apostrophes are often seen as pedants who shouldn't be taken seriously.

    The basic problem is that apostrophes are used for two entirely different purpose:

    1. to show that a letter (occasionally more) is removed from the spelling because a sound has been lost
    • a vowel e.g. isn't, he's (for is not, he is)
    • a syllable e.g. she'll, he's (for she will, he has)
    • less often a consonant e.g. o'clock for (of [the] clock)
    1. To distinguish the values of endings pronounced SS, ZZ or IZ depending on the preceding sound. This use grew out of the first in a haphazard way. At first it makes the loss of a letter E when the E-sound was lost. Because so many words were POSSESSIVE forms, the apostrophe came to be extended even to words like wife's where letter E was not lost.

    The trouble is that POSSESSIVE and MISSING LETTER principles can clash. With a lost I in it is the spelling is it's but the possessive 'of it' is spelled its. Yes we want the different words to be spelled differently, but that doesn't make it logical.

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