The Great Debate: Sunken Garden or Sunken Gardens?

Photo by Anna Boustany

Every single morning, at about 7:56 I cross the grass in Old Campus to get to my eight A.M. classes.

Until very recently, I was unaware of a great debate surrounding one letter in the name of our lawn: Sunken Garden or Sunken Gardens?

I have always said Sunken Gardens, and when I noticed people saying Sunken Garden, it sounded off to me.  But when I asked them about it, they vehemently defended the singular version.  We argued in circles, positing valid reasons for both the singular and the plural version.

I was left with no choice but to appeal to higher powers.

I took two routes. 

First, I posted a poll on the William and Mary Discourse page, hoping to gain a consensus from my fellow students.  The vast majority of students voted for the plural, that is the Sunken Gardens, with only a few people voting for the Sunken Garden option.

With this information, I emailed our President, Taylor Reveley.  His answer stood in stark contrast to the student poll, saying “I've always heard it referred to as the Sunken Garden and have assumed this was the one and only sanctified designation.” 

Susan Kern, Executive Director of the Historic Campus, also weighed in, saying that it has always been referred to as “Sunken Garden” in official college literature.

So it seems, we are stuck at an impasse.  The students overwhelmingly favor the plural vernacular, and the official stance of the college is that of the singular form.

I personally adhere to the plural form, which has always rolled off the tongue as the correct version for me.  Even after my research, my opinion hasn’t changed.  I will continue to say Sunken Gardens, as it seems to me that is the most commonly accepted spoken version.  Language is constantly changing, and the way people speak often changes what is considered the “official” version of a word.  I predict that soon enough, the overwhelming tide of student opinion will change the College’s official stance.  But who knows for sure? Perhaps in a hundred years, it will be called something else entirely!


Thumbnail Image by Anna Boustany