OME PEOPLE get very upset when they hear a teacher say: “Children, make sure you have a pencil in your hand.” Another sentence that bothers some people is: “Masses are often referred to by their Introit.” They feel there is a Plural/Singular issue with such sentences.
Some are bothered by the following hymn. They insist it should be “hearts” and mothers’ (notice the apostrophe). They also insist upon “Oh,” not “O.” They also want “our lives.”
1. Now thank we all our God,
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In Whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mother’s arms
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours today.
2. O may this bounteous God
Through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts
And blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world in the next.
But very fine hymnals have mother’s (notice the apostrophe):
1910 • Woodward Songs of Syon
1998 • London Oratory Hymn Book
1986 • New English Hymnal
1972 • Hymns Ancient and Modern
1958 • New Saint Basil
Other hymnals (e.g. Ted Marier’s) use mothers’—with the apostrophe at the end.
Hymn by Dr. John Mason Neale:
1. Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought his Israel
Into joy from sadness;
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
Jacob’s sons and daughters;
Led them with unmoistened foot
Through the Red Sea waters.
Some change “foot” to “feet.”
Saint Robert Southwell, a poet admired by Shakespeare, wrote:
Though thralls of sin lie lingering in their grave,
Some change “grave” to “graves.”
The original 1833 version of “The First Nowell” has “Their knee”:
5. Then entered in those Wise Men three
Most rev’rently upon their knee,
And offered there, in His presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense. R.
AM TOLD the American Book of Commom Prayer has “we have not loved you with our whole heart”—whereas some would insist upon “hearts.” For myself, I don’t have a problem with sentences like: “Let all present now take a breath.” I also don’t mind: “The police carry a gun on their belts.” To me, that sounds just fine. But others will disagree.