Where do you shop?


In Britain the answer might be at ASDA, Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, Marks & Spencer’s, Debenham’s, Harrod’s …

But some would say “Tesco’s”, and I’ve also heard “Waitrose’s”.

The ‘regular’ treatment of shop names is to add the genitive to a family name (i.e. ‘Mr Sainsbury’s shop, Mr Morrison’s shop’ etc.), but not to a company name that is not originally a person’s name, so “at ASDA” (an acronym from “Associated Dairies”.

Tesco and Waitrose also come into the latter category, Tesco being an acronym from “Tessa Cohen” (the founder’s wife), or perhaps from “T.E.Stockwell” (a tea supplier back in the 1920s) and “COhen”, and Waitrose likewise being an acronym of two of its founders’ names (Messrs Waite and Rose).

Increasingly, however, the ‘rule’ appears to be breaking down. Not only is “Tesco’s” frequently used, and Waitrose starting to become “Waitrose’s”, but there is real uncertainty about how to treat the newer budget supermarkets that have come in from Europe – Aldi, Lidl and Netto. On the other hand, does anyone shop at “John Lewis’s”?


  1. I suspect *John Lewis’s is avoided because people still remember the totally unconnected department store chain Lewis’s that went bust in the 1990s recession (and consequently only the Liverpool store still trades under this name).

  2. As a Yank and New Yorker, this idea is very alien to me. I would normally use a genitive ending on a store’s name only if the store already had that name: Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s, for example. Such places are in general long-established: I can’t imagine a new business starting up that would use a genitive name, unless it was named after a celebrity.

    The only counterexample I can think of is Bigelow’s, a New York drugstore established in 1838; their proper name is C.O. Bigelow Chemists, and their logo reads C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries — both terms being survivals in the U.S., though at least Chemists seems to be still current elsewhere. But everyone calls them Bigelow’s anyhow, perhaps because they are so old.

  3. I’m also American, and while I don’t add the ‘s, I’ve heard it – even on names like “Giant”.

  4. From Tesco’s history pages on their website: “The name comes from the initials of TE Stockwell, who was a partner in the firm of tea suppliers, and CO from Jack’s surname”.

    See http://www.tescoplc.com/plc/about_us/tesco_story/, click on 1950-20s…

  5. We also like to add an s in certain names like Boots and Starbucks, where there is no possessive apostrophe and no sense of possession (Starbuck being a fictional mermaid). I wonder if, in Britain at least, having a long tradition of owner-shopkeepers, we are in the habit of adding an s to the end of some shop names and we continue this tradition in some modern names, the s somehow evoking a cosy image of a welcoming proprietor? Maybe there is also some kind of phoenetic pattern that helps determine the ‘shopkeeper’s s’? I think it is also quite likely that there is an element of free variation that comes with the arbitrary nature of naming (e.g. in London there is St James Road and St James’s Road).

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