Arkansas House Passes Bill Changing Possessive of State's Name

The state House approved a resolution declaring "Arkansas's" the possessive form of the state's name — a bill so weird it prompted the sponsor to offer an apology.

"I know a lot of the attention that has been given to this resolution has reflected poorly on us as a Legislature, and for that I apologize," Rep. Steve Harrelson told House members before they unanimously passed his proposal Monday by voice vote. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Harrelson, a Democrat, said he was afraid stories about the resolution gave the public the impression that the Legislature has nothing better to do than focus on punctuation. Harrelson compared the non-binding proposal to other resolutions that the Legislature has passed to honor sports teams or individuals.

"Yes, there are more pressing matters we can deal with," Harrelson said.

After Arkansas became a state, confusion remained on its spelling and its pronunciation, as many maps from the time spelled it without its final "s." A resolution by the Legislature in 1881 formalized its current spelling and pronunciation, making its final "s" silent.

Harrelson noted that several grammar guides endorse the "'s" for the state's possessive, although The Associated Press stylebook does not agree.

Harrelson said because it's a nonbinding resolution, there would be no cost associated with the proposal. State agencies would not have to worry about changing their stationery to comply, he said.

Gov. Mike Beebe said he plans to sign the measure if it comes to his desk.