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Arkansans Quibble Over the Possessive 'S'

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Arkansans Quibble Over the Possessive 'S'

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Arkansans Quibble Over the Possessive 'S'

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In Arkansas, a pressing piece of legislative business has emerged from the office of Representative Steve Harrelson, Democrat of Texarkana. He filed a resolution yesterday declaring that the correct spelling of the possessive form of Arkansas should be with an apostrophe and an S. Representative Harrelson, an issue dear to your heart?

State Representative STEVE HARRELSON (Democrat, Arkansas): Well, it's an issue dear to a family friend of mine who I'm filing this for.

BLOCK: And what's his interest in this?

State Rep. HARRELSON: He calls himself a practical Arkansas historian, and this has been an issue dear to him for decades. He's been on a crusade.

BLOCK: Well, what's the issue here? Why is this such a big deal?

State Rep. HARRELSON: Oh, he's been on me for several years. (unintelligible) trying to file this. And so I finally gave in and told him I'd file it this session so long as could he wait until after we passed our public school funding bill, which we did earlier this week. So I went ahead and dropped it in the hopper earlier this week.

BLOCK: So here's the thing. I mean if you're talking about Arkansas' wonders, Arkansas' natural beauty, Arkansas' talented population, if the extra S isn't there, if it's just S apostrophe, maybe he's thinking people would be thinking Arkansas? That kind of hangs out there?

State Rep. HARRELSON: It's that sibilant letter, that sibilant S that really fires him up. He is adamant that it must have an apostrophe and S on the other side of the apostrophe.

BLOCK: Now you've introduced this on the legislature. Do you have some opposition lining up against you?

State Rep. HARRELSON: Oh, well, to be truthful, this is a resolution and we do dozens of this every week, you know, congratulating different soccer teams and football teams and things like that before the voting calendar begins. And frankly yes, we have had some opposition to this. It's opposed by the state's largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democratic Gazette. I didn't, quite frankly, know of the vast opposition that we would have, but it is there.

BLOCK: You're bracing for it?

State Rep. HARRELSON: That's right.

BLOCK: What is the local paper saying about why they think this is a terrible idea?

State Rep. HARRELSON: Well, they used the Associated Press style manual, and the Associated Press style manual refers to the possessive form of the state merely as Arkansas with an apostrophe on the end. They don't add the extra S. So there is some contention there and, you know, I have to be careful politically not to upset the largest circulation in the state.

BLOCK: Yeah, I would think you'd want them on your side.

State Rep. HARRELSON: That's right.

BLOCK: Representative Harrelson, the name for somebody who lives in Arkansas is what?

State Rep. HARRELSON: Well, that's up to who you would ask. Doug Smith, who was a very famous wordsmith here, says it's Arkansawyers. I technically use Arkansans. That's a topic of debate as well.

BLOCK: Yeah. Well here we go because Arkansan would be A-R-K-A-N-S-A-N, right?

State Rep. HARRELSON: That's right.

BLOCK: So you've lost an S?

State Rep. HARRELSON: Exactly.

BLOCK: Are you going to take that up?

State Rep. HARRELSON: I don't think so. I think we've got a few other things that are a more pressing than to deal with that.

BLOCK: Like the possessive form?

State Rep. HARRELSON: That's right.

BLOCK: The apostrophe?

State Rep. HARRELSON: Exactly.

BLOCK: Well, Representative Harrelson, good to thank you with you. Thanks so much.

State Rep. HARRELSON: You, too. Thanks so much.

BLOCK: That's Representative Steve Harrelson of Texarkana. He's filed a resolution to declare Arkansas' - that's the correct possessive spelling of Arkansas - to be A-R-K-A-N-S-A-S-'-S.

(Soundbite of music)

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

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