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A view of the Scholars Walk looking east, with the sign in the foreground

The budding Scholars Walk is designed to honor the academic achievements of U faculty and alumni. It will be dedicated as part of the 2005 homecoming festivities in September.

Editors debate Scholars Walk

By Rick Moore

Published on May 18, 2005

When great minds at the University aren't deciphering genomes or developing renewable energy sources, they're worrying about... an apostrophe.

The controversy, if you can call it that, boils down to whether or not to use an apostrophe in "Scholars Walk," the name of the new walkway connecting Northrop Mall to the McNamara Alumni Center on the Twin Cities campus. Should it be Scholars Walk or Scholars' Walk? A bald "s" or one adorned with a little cowlick?

The problem comes in discerning whether the term is more possessive or descriptive. If the walk belongs to the scholars it recognizes, it would be Scholars' Walk. But if Scholars merely describes the walk, like a Twins game or a savings account, then it should be Scholars Walk.

But it's not that simple. Behold Veterans Day and Presidents' Day, both spelled correctly, where both would appear to be equally descriptive. Other examples abound, at the University and beyond.

The issue even made it into an "Effective Writing" column by expert Stephen Wilbers. For the record, Wilbers favors an apostrophe, partly because it makes sense when you substitute an irregular plural (don't ask), and that it helps avoid ambiguity. Plus, "Why draw attention to the fact that scholars walk, when scholars read, scholars write, and scholars publish?" Wilbers notes. "To omit the apostrophe would be to invite the inevitable jokes."

The final and official verdict? Scholars Walk; no apostrophe. Yes, scholars walk. And some of their colleagues have far too much fun sweating the small stuff.