Why do we say that we have a doctor’s appointment instead of an appointment with a doctor? After all, we don’t say we have accountant’s appointments or attorney’s appointments. This is part of a complete episode.

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  1. Len Vaughan says:

    Thinking about this, it seems that _______’s appointment relates to medical people. Doctor, dentist, vet, psychiatrist, eye doctor, etc. You seem to have an appointment ‘with’ non-medical people. Lawyer, CPA, consultant, parole officer (?), etc.

    The only thing I can think of that brings all medical people together is the word ‘probe’ so maybe if you need to be probed (and are willing to pay for it), you have a ___________’s appointment, otherwise you have an appointment with ___________.

  2. laager says:

    I use the singular. Its always struck my ear right. I have a doctor appointment. lawyer appointment, dentist appointment. this is a fool errand.
    then, again, i couldn’t place an apostrophe, or, comma, to save my life. maybe this is my way out?

  3. shawn98ag says:

    I was thinking that maybe since doctors use to make house calls, an appointment was the doctor’s (possessive). It was his to remember. His to get to on time. Hence the apostrophe “s”?

  4. shelby says:

    I just heard a re-broadcast of this episode in Dallas. It might be that we say I have a doctor’s appointment because we used to go to the Doctor’s house for an appointment. I think Doctor’s used to have offices and see patients in some part of their house (front, on the side, in the back) or maybe an office attached or close by the house. In both Italian and French, the phrase “I’m going to the doctor’s” refers to the idea of going to the doctor’s house: “Je vais chez médecin” (in French) and “Vado dal medico” (in Italian). In French “chez” means house. In Italian the the proposition+article “dal” refers either to where someone lives or works.

    Love your show by the way!

  5. Hadn’t thought about that possibility, Shelby. Thanks. Btw, would love for you to come see us when we’re in Dallas on Thursday, May 16!

    Details here: http://abergcenter.org/2013/02/01/awww/

    — MB

  6. shelby says:

    Thanks Martha. I just heard this week that you all will be in town and hope to arrange to see the show.

    Shelby

  7. shelby says:

    Hi again Martha. I feel so silly for not having thought about this before now, but our house is a perfect example of what I was thinking about: it was originally built as a dentist’s office in the early 1920s. It was built on the back of the property and the dentist used the front of the house as his dentist office and they lived in the back part of the house. According to the story, they intended to build a proper house in the front of the property later on, but I believe that the depression got in the way of those plans. In fact, I think this was common practice in this area at that time and you can still see a few small “old” (for Dallas) houses built on the back of lots like this that served as some type of business. Coincidentally, our neighborhood is just adjacent to the one where the Lakewood theater is where you all will be performing in May.

    Just a few other thoughts on this idea of going to the doctor’s or dentist’s. I think there was a time when people also said they were going to the grocer’s or baker’s and that also probably comes from the time when grocers and bakers had their businesses in the front of their houses and lived in the back. And back to France – it’s customary to greet the shop owner with “Bonjour madame/monsieur” – and I either read or was told that this is a throwback to the time when people ran shops from their homes and it was important to be especially polite and respectful when entering someone’s home.

    As you can see I’m a language and word person : )

    Shelby

  8. ronsaturday says:

    I believe there’s a simple explanation of why we say “doctor’s appointment” and “dentist’s appointment”, but not “lawyer’s appointment” or “accountant’s appointment.” The apostrophe/s shows a possessive. Who owns the appointment? When a client is seeing a lawyer or an accountant, there is dual ownership of the process, with a fair amount of control retained by the client as to length of appointment, content of the conversation, and other factors.

    Despite moves toward a more equal partnership, there is still a very significant power differential when a professional has authority to place his/her hands into your mouth or other bodily orifice, to ask you to remove your clothing, or to make pronouncements as to your overall state of health including how long you might live. Since much of the control rests firmly in the hands of the medical professional, a possessive makes sense.

    Ron Malzer
    Psychologist
    Mayo Clinic Health System– La Crosse, WI.

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