Jan 10

Secret Fear of a Grammar-Fiend

If you’re going to operate on people’s brains, you don’t need to know how to use an apostrophe. If you’re going to drive a race car, you don’t need to know how to use an apostrophe. If you’re going to write signs, you need to have that apostrophe business down cold, damnit. If your store needs to write a sign, for crying out loud, surely you have at least one person on staff who didn’t smoke weed all through high school? And if you don’t, hey, they have grammar help on the internet.

It’s getting to the point where I see apostrophes used incorrectly more often than I see them used correctly.  I mean, really, people, it’s not rocket science.  It’s “CDs on sale”, not “CD’s on sale.” Or if you’re selling apples, it’s not “apple’s $1.29/lb.”

My fear is that this is a paradigm switch.  Since so many people think it’s okay to write their native language poorly, and anti-intellectualism is as firmly entrenched in American culture as a resentment of monarchy, we’re going to get to the point where the dumb-asses are going to win.

I have some empathy with grammarians of old.  A hundred years ago, everyone attended to his grammar faithfully, and now everyone ignores what their English teachers taught them. But there’s a good (feminist) reason to use “their” instead of “his.”  The surfeit of apostrophes is just laziness.

I predict that twenty years from now, your iPhone and Word (or equivalent) auto fills will put an apostrophe any time there is an S. If your name is “Miles,” so sorry, you will have to be “Mile’s” from now on. If you have more than one dog, you will take your “dog’s” for a walk.  Ditto for “alot” which will become only one word, and “regardless” which will be auto-corrected to “irregardless.”


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    • Beth on January 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    It would seem that no, most businesses (business’s) don’t have even one person on staff who didn’t smoke weed all through high school English.

    Just saw this shirt today: http://www.sharingmachine.com/index.php?item=33
    It’s from Toothpaste For Dinner, and it has a picture of a vendor with a tray of apostrophes, calling out his wares: “Apostrophe’s! Extra apostrophe’s! Use ’em for plural’s! One dollar!”

    That made me laugh.

    Also, even though I included “business’s” above to be funny, I think that particular apostrophe could technically be allowed to stay, as it would be replacing the “e” from the original word.

    • Zargon on January 11, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Come on, its not that bad!

    • Keyan on January 12, 2011 at 3:19 am

    and no one will use capitals. what good are they, anyway?

    • Berry on January 12, 2011 at 10:52 am

    there’s a good (feminist) reason to use “their” instead of “his.”

    There’s a good non-feminist reason to use “singular they” as well: it’s been common practice in English for hundreds of years.

  1. CD’s versus CDs, it depends what style manual you’re looking at. (Check out the grammar in THAT non-sentence!)

    You know what drives me crazy is:
    should of
    should have

    I use the first one, though spellcheckers don’t agree with me. Including Chrome’s apparently.
    The second one is clearly wrong, but even writers get away with it if it’s in dialog.

    People are not saying ‘should of’, they are saying ‘should’ve’!!!

    • Jessica on January 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I wouldn’t call that a good reason. If the reason is, “We’ve done it like that for a really long time” other crap would still be around like thee and thou and text speak would be acceptable for term papers. That’s a fallacy. I agree that English is evolving and what is accepted in common practice is exactly that — but the spoken language has always adhered to more lax rules than the written language.

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