Cool Whips

Posted on September 9, 2012

As ever, the reshuffle has raised crucial political questions: What does this mean for the Third Runway? Who cried when they got the sack? Did we really need to see the receipt for Grant Shapps’ now famous £4 machine washable tie?

But perhaps the most important mystery is this: how are you supposed to punctuate the Government Whips’ Office? Is it an office belonging to many Whips, or is the Whip an intangible, singular entity in itself? Alternatively, is the office simply where the Whips sit, and therefore not in anyone’s possession?

Westminster is deeply divided on the matter.

The Cabinet Office and the Spectator go for zero tolerance on apostrophes: “Government Whips Office”.

The normally omniscient House of Commons Library goes for a singular Whip: “The Whip’s Office”.

Meanwhile, the BBC plumps for a plural possessive: “the Whips’ office”.

The political establishment has, all of a sudden, found itself trapped in the “Cool Whip” conversation between Stewie Griffen and Brian in Family Guy.

Perhaps some grammarians can settle the question once and for all?



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Categories: Opinion, Politics, Westminster


7 Responses

  1. Stuart Glover:

    If there is a Chief Whip, then there must be more than one whip, and if it is the office that always houses them (rather then it being a parliamentary hotdesking setup) then it must belong to them, so I think the Beeb are right (and perhaps not coincidentally, so is this blog as shown in the 2nd paragraph).

    06.09.2012 14:40 Reply

  2. daedalus:

    We speak of individuals who are Government Whips; and we speak of removing the Whip from particularly naughty MPs. So my instinct is that it is the Office of the Whips; or, the Whips’ Office.

    It most certainly is not the Whip’s Office as that would be the office of a singular Whip. Moreover when one speaks of being in the office of a given Whip, one would not capitalise the ‘O’. Office-with-a-capital-’O’ is more a position than a room (in the same way that The Voice of GOD is an individual Angel called the Metatron; pace Milton, Goethe, et al). Therefore “Whips Office” is incorrect, but “Whips office” is correct but doesn’t mean the same thing as “Whips’ Office”.

    06.09.2012 15:11 Reply

  3. therealguyfaux:

    This one has me whipped.

    06.09.2012 16:22 Reply

  4. kinglear:

    As far as i know the Cabinet Office and the Speccie are correct. They are GOVERNMENT Whips ( plural) in an office. No apostrophe required.

    06.09.2012 16:40 Reply

  5. Disco Biscuit:

    The Government Whips Office actually belongs to the House authorities and not to the whips themselves, so it’s the Whips Office.
    If we called it the Office of the Whips, that would clear up the confusion (except it wouldn’t, because there’s actually two offices for the Government whips – Commons and Lords, plus the Opposition whips too).

    06.09.2012 16:42 Reply

  6. Jethro:

    …It might very well ‘belong to the House authorities’, but the Genitive is about more than possession: The Prime Minister’s spokesman does not ‘belong’ to the Prime Minister, but we use an apostrophe since he is of, and for, on behalf of, and pertaining to, the Prime Minister. ‘The Mayor’s Office’ could be a particular room in the Town Hall, used, but not owned by, the Mayor – or we could be speaking abstractly of all that pertains to being, and performing the duties of, Mayor: in either case, the apostrophe is appropriate (one Mayor, so the Apostrophe before the final ‘s’). Id there one Whip only, or are there more than one? If the latter, the Apostrophe (indicating that the Office is the room allotted to, designated for, them) must go after the final ‘s’.
    TEST.
    Consider, and , where necessary, correct these statements:
    a. Is there just one Wallace, or are there many Wallace’s?
    b. I always read Crash Bang Wallace, although I never agree with Wallaces opinions.
    c. I always read Crash Bang Wallace, although I never agree with Wallaces’ opinions.
    d. Scots’ wha’ hae wi’ Wallace bled…
    e. Greengrocers’ Apostrophe’s: I hate ‘em!
    f. Have you seen Wallace’s web-site? Its called ‘Fish cant Whistle’: why didnt he just call it Cottle’ston Pie?

    06.09.2012 19:56 Reply

  7. wee logician:

    i will come back to it when i’m sober. Promise

    06.09.2012 20:27 Reply

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