Tuesday, December 16, 2008

of saints and streets and grammatical confusion

It has come to my attention that there is trouble afoot in the world. All is not as it should be. Yet what can be done?
I refer of course to the correct method of abbreviating the word 'saint'.

In the course of my university degree, concentrating as I did on the Medieval period, I wrote a number of essays about or including saints. After receiving many of these essays back with numerous corrections I came to the conclusion that the abbreviation of saint was 'St' with NO full stop, which distinguishes it from 'st.' which has a full stop.
The reason for this, which I may have made up in my own head, it's hard to tell, is that 'street' is shortened, and the front two letters used to form an abbreviation, while 'saint' is contracted, with the middle removed, and the first and last letters removed. So the full stop in 'st.' stands in for the missing letters, which wouldn't make sense in the case of 'saint'. This seems like a fairly satisfactory conlclusion to me, although it does make me feel that 'saint' should be 's't', like, say, 'don't' etc. But that hardly seems like an elegant abbreviation, more like a character from a bad sci-fi novel.

The problem is that I'm not sure if any of this is true. I came acrosss the St. George (sic.) Bank website today, where I found that they spell their name with a full stop. Also a Google search turned up more 'St.'s than 'St's. While this grates on me and makes me feel that the world is wrong, maybe it's just me. Any help?


  1. I think you're right about the contraction vs abbreviation thing. I know that when I worked as a sub-editor, we were not allowed to shorten Saint to St. It was the same with Mrs, Mr and Dr.

  2. Thanks! I feel somewhat vindicated. Although ashamed to think that I probably use Mr. and Mrs. all the time, defying my own logic :(

  3. If "Mrs" is a contraction, what is the correct spelling of the full word?

  4. I alwasys thought that was from 'mistress'. I suppose 'Miss' is just 'Miss'. Or is that mistress?
    Wikipedia tells me that both are abbreviations of 'mistress'. How helpful. And that 'Mrs' is spelt with no full stop in proper English and with one in American.

  5. Also Wiki, article on abbreviation:
    "But before that, many Britons were more scrupulous at maintaining the French form. In French, the period only follows an abbreviation if the last letter in the abbreviation is not the last letter of its antecedent: "M." is the abbreviation for "monsieur" while "Mme" is that for "madame"."
    I suppose I could have checked that first...

  6. Although now I find:
    "In formal British English, according to Hart's Rules, it is more common to write abbreviations with full stops if the word has been cut at the point of abbreviation but not otherwise: for example:

    "Doctor" becomes "Dr" (for "D–r")
    "Professor" becomes "Prof." (for "Prof...")
    "The Reverend" becomes "Revd" (for "Rev–d")"

    It seems like bad form writing multiple comments on my own blog... But that does make me feel vindicated :)

  7. i was impressed at the number of comments!

  8. also the word 'sic' has no full stop I learnt the other day... hehe