The Real Reason Tim Hortons Doesn't Have An Apostrophe

The beloved Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons has supplied Canadians, and those visiting, with double-doubles and doughnuts since its founding in 1964. It is now a popular multinational coffee chain serving up everything from breakfast sandwiches to lattes, but there is one thing that bugs many native English speakers about the restaurant: The chain's name seems like it is missing an apostrophe. 

Their natural inclination is to spell the name as "Tim Horton's" with an apostrophe, as one spells other brands with similar names, like Wendy's. But that is incorrect. The correct spelling is "Tim Hortons," with no apostrophe, and the reason why is more complex than a simple grammatical quirk.

According to WKYC, the missing apostrophe is actually the result of a centuries-old disagreement between France and Great Britain. All the way back in the 1760s, after Great Britain defeated France in the French and Indian War, the French were forced to give up the territory of what is now Quebec. However, the native population still had strong ties to French food, culture, language, and, by extension, spelling.

French became Quebec's official language in 1977

Over the next 200 years, fiery and even violent tensions erupted between the French-affiliated population and the new English-speaking minority who moved to the province, according to WKYC. The conflict persisted until August 26, 1977, when the Parti Quebecois government passed La charte de la langue française, otherwise known as Bill 101, per Global News. The bill made French the official language of Quebec, and, as a result, it mandated that all labels, menus, and public signs had to be written in French.

Under the new bill, it became illegal for businesses to advertise English names, and anyone who broke the law would risk being subjected to heavy fines. Because the apostrophe counted as an English punctuation mark, it fell under the same restrictions as other English spellings (via WKYC). Rather than risk being fined or deal with the stress of managing two different spellings depending on each restaurant location, the famous coffee shop simply got rid of the apostrophe entirely, and it has been called Tim Hortons ever since.