Fanning The Flames

Things have been getting hot in France, and are now doing so as well in Britain, as their social-welfare economies begin to collapse under their own weight. The latest update comes from London, where firefighters have decided to go on strike on Friday, November 5th.

For those of you who don’t know, the fifth of November is Guy Fawkes’ Day, which commemorates the foiling in 1605 of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, assassinate King James, and restore Catholic rule. Britons throughout the land and around the world celebrate the narrow escape by burning effigies of Mr. Fawkes on bonfires, and by lighting fireworks. It is one of the year’s foremost occasions for unbridled merrymaking.

I remember a rhyme that my mother recited to me when I was a little boy:

Do you remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot?
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

For the firemen’s union to choose this day, of all days, for their strike is an enormously provocative gesture, and I’m sure passions will be inflamed. Let’s hope nothing else is.

Related content from Sphere


  1. the one eyed man says

    Actually it’s Guy Fawkes Day. Not the possessive (and if it were, it would be Guy Fawkes’s Day).

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:28 pm | Permalink
  2. Kevin Kim says

    I just watched “V for Vendetta” on TV the other day, so Guy Fawkes is rather fresh in my mind.

    Regarding possessives: the king of the land of the blind is correct, at least if we’re talking modern style manuals. In my grad program, we used Kate Turabian’s style manual, which is a condensed version of the Chicago Manual. In it, the preferred style for possessives is to add apostrophe-S to all names, including those ending in “s,” unless the name is ancient/venerable, e.g., “Moses’ love child” or “Jesus’ corn dog.” Otherwise, it’s “Mr. Williams’s chrome-plated shotgun.”

    Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Tough room!

    Right you both are, however. I’m usually a stickler for exactly this rule, and for the correct use of apostrophes in general, so I’m particularly embarrassed by my carelessness here. (Perhaps I used to see it written that way when I was a boy, and it just stuck.)

    Coming on the heels of my shocking misstep at the Bee, I’m starting to wonder if the old cogs are beginning to slip.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    By the way, Kevin, I thought you might be able to clear up a question about Catholic doctrine that came up in the previous post.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:07 am | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Googling Fawkes apostrophe led me to this.

    At least I’ll have Antonia Fraser as a cell-mate.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:16 am | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    See also this.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:18 am | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    Wait, there’s more:

    Even more problems arise when you’re not sure about the origin of the name. One of the colleges of Cambridge University is, correctly, Queens’ College, because it was founded by two queens (the Oxford one had only one royal benefactor, so it is The Queen’s College). And what of November 5? Is it Guy Fawkes’ Day or Guy Fawkes’s Day? The one certain thing is that it isn’t Guy Fawke’s Day, because his name was Fawkes, with the s already on. And what does one do about Lloyd’s, the famous insurance market in London? How do you make a possessive from that? “Names are complaining that some Lloyd’s’s syndicates were badly managed”? The style guide of the Economist says “try to avoid using [it] as a possessive; it poses an insoluble problem”.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:23 am | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    So, on further reflection: it clearly isn’t “Guy Fawkes’s Day”; I’ve heard it spoken all my life, and one never hears it with that extra ‘z’ sound at the end.

    But the name of the holiday definitely has the feel of a possessive — there was this rascal named Fawkes, and this is his day (to be burned in effigy, but his nonetheless). So “Guy Fawkes Day” doesn’t feel quite right either.

    That leaves “Guy Fawkes’ Day”. I guess this is why I wrote it that way, though none of this was conscious (and I agree it breaks the rule).

    What do we do with the day on which we honor our veterans? It’s their day, right?

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Quick as a wink, here’s your answer, straight from the gummint (with further commentary here):

    Q. Which is the correct spelling of Veterans Day?

    a. Veterans Day
    b. Veteran’s Day
    c. Veterans’ Day

    A. Veterans Day (choice a, above). Veterans Day does not include an apostrophe but does include an “s” at the end of “veterans” because it is not a day that “belongs” to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink
  10. JK says

    A feller can learn alot reading this blog.

    Or is that, a lot?

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 1:41 am | Permalink
  11. Changing tack slightly, there is also the impossibility, for me at any rate, of editing one’s self. I wrote a post yesterday morning entitled, or so I thought:

    “Rise, take up thy bed and walk”

    and spelt it thus,

    “Rise, take up they bed and walk”.

    I must have looked at it several times during the day but never noticed until, still half-asleep, it leapt out and tweaked my nose this morning. Confirmation, perhaps, that I write better whilst half-asleep!

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 5:04 am | Permalink
  12. JK says

    Probably should’ve skipped that Ebonics grammer class David.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink
  13. the one eyed man says

    We should all have a moment of silence to mark the passing of Alex Anderson, creator of Rocky, Bullwinkle, Dudley DoRight, Snidely Whiplash, and Crusader Rabbit.

    Posted October 26, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink