Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Tiassa, Jan 10, 2011.


The apostrophe—

Poll closed Feb 28, 2011.
  1. It's not that hard to use properly.

  2. It's a confusing, inconsistent language; lighten up.

    0 vote(s)
  3. Why have any rule's about apostrophe's? I still know what people mean.

    0 vote(s)
  4. Other (???)

    0 vote(s)
  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Enough With the Bloody Apostrophes, Already! Please!

    You know, it's funny. When I first read Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots & Leaves, I found the book amusing and enlightening. But I also understood why people thought she was being a bit bitchy and pedantic insofar as the suggestion to carry a marking pen around to correct errant apostrophes is concerned.

    And then, last year, I happened to find myself in Britain, and yes, it's actually quite striking. Normally, I defer to the English instead of giving them shit about how they treat certian words. It is, after all, their language, so if they want to arbitrarily kill gerunds by saying "stood" instead of "standing", that's their business. But yes, the apostrophes are both astounding and annoying. I want to go to a grocer's to buy groceries. Not go to a grocers to buy grocerie's. Maybe I should get some potatoe's and tomatoe's while I'm at the store. And maybe some string bean's. Or a couple of apple's and some of those loave's of small, dry bread for spreading cheese's on while you sip your coffee. Oh, right. Tea. So some tea and biscuit's, maybe.

    I'm pretty sure I even saw errant apostrophe's on official sign's. Like one of the war memorial's in Scotland, or some council notice's in London. Maybe I should have gone to a carder's to buy some sweater's.

    And then pop in for a couple of pint's.

    Oh, yeah. Errant apostrophes everywhere on pub boards.

    Coming home, obviously, I chuckled. Spending so much time at Sciforums, I'm accustomed to trying to read atrocious spelling and hideous grammar; it's a good primer for when we have to deal with ESL members. Outside Sciforums, I had stopped paying attention to a lot of it because, let's face it, even in the new's media, such error's are nearly ubiquitou's. And, yes, seeing the state of the language in Her Majestys dominion was a reality check of sorts.

    Indeed, I missed a chance at a pub brawl by five minutes; probably for the best. For as little colloquial disdain for dark-skinned immigrants as I heard while there, one occasion stands out. As we left a particular pub after dinner one night, I heard two seconds' worth of some guy on his nth pint bitching over a fag out front about the immigrants. Now here's the thing: Earlier in the day, I had bought cigarettes from an immigrant. Only minutes after leaving the pub, my friend bought cigarette's from a white English guy.

    Might have been in York, which is funny since the first store we found open at that hour (8:00 pm?) was a chain.

    Anyway, yeah, I don't think asking the guy at the pub why the immigrant could spell cigarettes without the botch would have been a good idea.

    Oh, right, I'm rambling.

    At any rate, I witnessed a curious thing today, and I'm obviously overlooking something blatant because I'm so unconventional.

    Start with a source document.

    Now, to quote it, I usually just copy and paste. In some cases, I will correct typographical and other basic errors in the source, but more often than not, sic suffices.

    However, I don't get why I might go and insert an apostrophe where one clearly isn't needed. Indeed, where one is clearly inappropriate.

    So I guess the answer is that I'm very unconventional in copying and pasting quotes. By this theory, most people transcribe their quotes, which accounts for such typos. Because, certainly, a graduate-educated professional isn't going to be so pretentiously erroneous as to say, "Oh, hey, that plural noun needs an apostrophe! The news editor must have gotten it wrong!"

    But then ... someone comes along and quotes the post, not the source, so the error is repeated. And sometimes direct witness of so mundane a process becomes the ghastly awakening, such that one is compelled to ask, "Um, guy's? Can we please quit with all the extra apostrophe's? Please?"

    I mean, I understand that copy editing is atrocious in the electronic age. But why expend any effort to make the situation worse?

    Apostrophes, in English, perform a limited number of basic but vital duties. Namely, they mark missing letters (e.g., contraction), or establish possession (e.g., possessive). It's actually kind of hard to figure why these are such difficult boundaries for some people to grasp. Honestly, I think it's somehow derivative of a thirty-days-to-a-better-you mentality. With the vocabulary programs, they encourage people to use three- and four-syllable words in order to sound more intelligent. But when you have one three-syllable word (e.g., "transition") that replaces a bunch of other two-syllable words (e.g., transfer, transform, transced, &c.), you just sound like a pretentious moron with a limited vocabulary. Maybe people are just using extra apostrophes because they think it makes them look smarter.

    And that suggestion comes about because while I understand that people scribbling a note, or typing quickly, will sometimes just make a mistake. Almost all of my typos and syntax collapses result from haste, so I'm sympathetic. But this thing with sticking apostrophes where they don't need to be—and inconsistently at that—in what appears to be a copy and paste completely befuddles me.

    So let me be clear: My ESL neighbors I have no complaint with. Those of our neighbors who endure functional obstacles and impairments to reading and writing I leave alone. But there are plenty of us around here who have been speaking, reading, and writing this language long enough to know what an apostrophe that it shouldn't be a problem, and we have no excuse. And don't get me wrong; I'm not talking about the errors an original, quoted author might have committed. Rather, I refer to the apparent extra effort at botching up a word with an apostrophe.

    And I know people's literacy and writing skills are drastically variable around here, but just because some people aren't on a functional par doens't mean the rest of us need to throw in, too. I mean, it almost seems like that stupid question about if everyone else jumped off a bridge.

    But please: Enough with the bloody apostrophes, already.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011

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