The Case of the Illegal Apostrophe


For those who don’t live in Canada, Tim Hortons is a Canadian fast-food chain specializing in coffee and donuts. Tim Hortons was originally Tim Horton’s, as it seemingly should be. After all, the name refers to a coffee shop owned by Tim Horton and not a gathering of many Tim Hortons. However, in 1977, after years of tense and sometimes violent demonstrations by pro-French Quebecers, the Parti Québecois (the political Quebec Party) passed Bill 101, which made French the sole official language in Quebec. It became illegal for businesses to advertise English names at the risk of facing large fines, and the apostrophe in Tim Horton’s is an exclusively English punctuation mark. So, rather than adopt separate branding on everything from signage to napkins, the company changed its name worldwide to Tim Hortons, no apostrophe.