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To apostrophe or not apostrophe? Why is Tim Hortons not Tim Horton's?

Why doesn't Tim Hortons use an apostrophe? We did some research and found out. 

This is a legitimate question: Why is Tim Hortons not Tim Horton's?


This came up in our newsroom on Monday when word came down that Tim Hortons franchise owner Jeff Linville plans to open 105 Northeast Ohio locations starting next year.

Just for some background, Tim Hortons is the namesake of the man who opened the first location in Hamilton, Ontario in 1964, NHL legend Tim Horton.

Within four years, Tim Horton had partnered with Ron Joyce and the venture become a multi-million dollar franchise operation. Horton died in a car crash in 1974 but the name and the franchise went on.

So when we found out that Cleveland was going to get its first exposure to Tim Hortons next year, many of us were wondering: Why isn't Tim Hortons actually Tim Horton's?

Wendy's has an apostrophe. So does McDonald's. So does Arby's. Heck, at one point, Tim Hortons and Wendy's merged.

What makes Tim so special?

So we did some digging. You actually have to go back to the French and Indian War in the 1760's, when Great Britain defeated the French in North America. (I'm not kidding)

One of the territories that France gave up was the area of what is now Quebec. For the next two centuries, there was tension in the province between those who had ties with their native French language and culture, and those who came from the U.K.

"English-speaking merchants, who formed a minority in New France, soon took control of the economy and would seek to impose their will on the French-speaking majority for the next 200 years," says historian Mathieu Noël from the University of Montreal.

That was until 1977. As the website Mental Floss notes: After years of tense and sometimes violent demonstrations by pro-French Quebecers, the newly powerful Parti Québecois passed La charte de la langue française, or Bill 101, which made French the sole official language in Quebec.

Bill 101 spells out that ALL signs, product labels, restaurant menus and wine lists must be in French. It became illegal for businesses to advertise English names at the risk of facing large fines. Since the apostrophe in Tim Horton’s is an exclusively English punctuation mark, it had to go.

So instead of having two different brandings, Tim Hortons decided to eliminate the apostrophe altogether.

When you have your first cup of Tim Hortons coffee or your first taste of a Timbit next year, just remember that it all goes back to the French, the British, and the Canadians!

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