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Novembre 2018
The Speak Up blog answers any questions you may have either about the English language or our articles. Write to us at: http://blog.speakuponline.it. The most interesting questions will be published on this page. A word of warning, though: our blog is not a translation or homework service!

Dear Rachel,
I read in September's Speak Up issue (in the interview with James Ellroy) the following expressions: " ... the mystery of the life and death of his mother"  and "the unsolved murder of his mother".
Could the author of the article have written : "the mystery of his mother's life and death" and "his mother's unsolved murder" ? I remember reading that in grammar it's possible to use the possessive case even if, between the two words,
there is not a real possession relation. And this is the case here ...
I have also noticed that this construction is used especially but not solely in American English. Am I wrong?
Thanks a lot,

Dear Claudio,
The answer to your first question is yes. I think both forms would work for the following reasons. The genitive case is used primarily to express possession (“The girl's bike” = “her bike”), but it does have other meanings. For example, origin - (“The girl's history, the boy's past”); to describe something (a summer's day, New Year's Eve); to measure a period of time (two week's holiday). These are just a  few examples, there are many more! There is such a close similarity between “the unsolved murder of his mother” and “his mother's unsolved murder” that they are practically interchangeable. So in the end the choice is often based on a question of style and sound. I’m not aware that one form is more common in American English.
Hope that’s clear,

Good morning,  I'm Italian and I've been your loyal reader for more than fifteen years. I'm writing to ask you a question. Reading the September issue, I found a mistake on page fifty-two: "The blonde thirteen year-old boy." I've always known that ‘blonde’ is feminine and ‘blond’ a masculine adjective. Am I wrong or is it just a typo? Thank you in advance. Kind regards. Anna

Dear Anna,
You are absolutely right! The words ‘blond’ and ‘blonde’ come from the French. ‘Blond’ (without the ‘e’) is used to describe males, while ‘blonde’ refers females. Well done for spotting it! Alex

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