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OldRightHander
12-19-2008, 02:22 PM
There is widespread abuse going on and it must stop. What is being abused? The apostrophe. This poor little punctuation mark has been abused more than any other, always being put in places it doesn't belong. Stopping the abuse really isn't that hard either. Here are three simple ways you can do your part.

1. The apostrophe doesn't make things plural. More than one apple is apples, not apple's. I have several DVDs at home, not DVD's.

2. If something is a plural and you need to make it possessive, the apostrophe is quite adequate for the job without an additional s thrown in. I have seen the Jones' new car, not the Jones's new car.

3. Know which words are contractions and which ones aren't. It's appropriate to put the apostrophe in its right place.

Now how hard is that? Three simple steps to stop the abuse of the apostrophe. We all have to do our part.

Chip R
12-19-2008, 02:23 PM
Feel better? :)

OldRightHander
12-19-2008, 02:24 PM
Feel better? :)

Yes. I had to get it out of my system.

RichRed
12-19-2008, 02:42 PM
Man, I'm with you, ORH. My neighborhood's civic league newsletter reads "Happy Holiday's." Misplaced apostrophes give me little panic attacks.

Blimpie
12-19-2008, 03:10 PM
Here is a one of the paid advertisers from the Web site for my son's baseball league:

http://slyb.org/index.cfm/SportDVD's.html

I know the guy and the poor SOB even has business cards to match this logo....I have never had the heart to break it to him.

nate
12-19-2008, 03:18 PM
You guy's are crazy!

Rojo
12-19-2008, 04:24 PM
Thank's for the head's up.

Quotation mark promiscuity bothers me more. On our buses in SF there's a sign that says, "Warning". Who are they quoting? Some dumbass bus safety guy?

camisadelgolf
12-19-2008, 04:34 PM
Here's something else . . .

If we're talking about the ABCs, we don't need an apostrophe. If we're talking about the 1970s, it's shortened to '70s, not 70's.

Also, if you're typing something formal, very rarely is it appropriate to use contractions, aside from obvious exceptions (i.e. Mr.). I feel better knowing that someone else has a similar passion for the apostrophe.

RichRed
12-19-2008, 04:46 PM
Thank's for the head's up.

Quotation mark promiscuity bothers me more. On our buses in SF there's a sign that says, "Warning". Who are they quoting? Some dumbass bus safety guy?

That's another good one. Whenever I see out-of-place quotation marks, like on a restaurant menu ($5.99 Special "Today"), I always think, "Hmm, I wonder who said that?"

UKFlounder
12-19-2008, 04:51 PM
Mr. is an abbreviation, not a contraction but you're right in that contractions (like can't, don't, won't) generally should be avoided in such situations (as, from I understand, passive voice like I just used)


Here's something else . . .

If we're talking about the ABCs, we don't need an apostrophe. If we're talking about the 1970s, it's shortened to '70s, not 70's.

Also, if you're typing something formal, very rarely is it appropriate to use contractions, aside from obvious exceptions (i.e. Mr.). I feel better knowing that someone else has a similar passion for the apostrophe.

RichRed
12-19-2008, 04:52 PM
Seems like about once a year, I paste a link to this site on here. This thread is crying out for it.

http://www.banterist.com/archivefiles/000605.html

SunDeck
12-19-2008, 05:00 PM
Thank's for the head's up.

Quotation mark promiscuity bothers me more. On our buses in SF there's a sign that says, "Warning". Who are they quoting? Some dumbass bus safety guy?

And sometimes you get lucky and find both problems:

http://www.community-media.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/bras.jpg

RichRed
12-19-2008, 05:05 PM
http://threesixty360.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/apostrophe.jpg

nate
12-19-2008, 05:19 PM
I'll be on the lookout for this abuse while getting supplie's for Christmas.

Unassisted
12-19-2008, 05:39 PM
You are soooo lucky that you used the right form of "it's" in item #3. The razzing would have been brutal. ;)

If only this information would put an end to midwesterners constant appending of the apostrophe-s to store names. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard people there mention their patronage of Wal-Mart's or Kroger's, I would be in a higher tax bracket. :D

camisadelgolf
12-19-2008, 05:47 PM
Mr. is an abbreviation, not a contraction but you're right in that contractions (like can't, don't, won't) generally should be avoided in such situations (as, from I understand, passive voice like I just used)

I agree, but I found a source that claimed that 'Mr.' also qualifies as a contraction, so I just ran with it.

paintmered
12-19-2008, 06:08 PM
Strong Bad can contribute to this discussion:

Its vs. It's:
http://hekima.lionking.org/thestick/its.mp3

Capitalization:
http://hekima.lionking.org/thestick/caps.mp3

Spell Checking:
http://hekima.lionking.org/thestick/spellcheck.mp3

Your vs. You're:
http://hekima.lionking.org/thestick/your.mp3

Spelling on the Internet:
http://hekima.lionking.org/thestick/ontheinternet.mp3

camisadelgolf
12-19-2008, 06:14 PM
Strong Bad is possibly the best character ever created.

MrCinatit
12-19-2008, 06:36 PM
Yeah, a few of my pet peeves are in here.
One of mine is "first annual".
It is impossible to have a "first annual" event. There is no guarantee that event will take place a second time. It could be a failure, could be a name change, could be a sponsor change, or the world could end and the aliens that find that first annual sign would laugh at us.
Once that event hits its second year, then, yeah, it can be safely called an annual event. Otherwise...shaddap!

Rojo
12-19-2008, 09:13 PM
"Most unique" is also pretty awful. :)

WVRed
12-19-2008, 09:42 PM
My favorite is "You know what really grinds my gears" by Peter Griffin.

Bob Borkowski
12-20-2008, 12:38 PM
There is widespread abuse going on and it must stop. What is being abused? The apostrophe. This poor little punctuation mark has been abused more than any other, always being put in places it doesn't belong. Stopping the abuse really isn't that hard either. Here are three simple ways you can do your part.

1. The apostrophe doesn't make things plural. More than one apple is apples, not apple's. I have several DVDs at home, not DVD's.

2. If something is a plural and you need to make it possessive, the apostrophe is quite adequate for the job without an additional s thrown in. I have seen the Jones' new car, not the Jones's new car.

3. Know which words are contractions and which ones aren't. It's appropriate to put the apostrophe in its right place.

Now how hard is that? Three simple steps to stop the abuse of the apostrophe. We all have to do our part.

But why, then, has the Oakland Athletics logo (on caps for sure and also on uniforms, I think) been A's for a long, long time?

http://www.sportslogos.net/team.php?id=69

Roy Tucker
12-20-2008, 12:42 PM
Speaking in apostrophes, I've always wondered what is the possesive of A's? Like in the Oakland A's.

A's'

A's's

???

macro
12-20-2008, 01:33 PM
Thanks, ORH. The apostrophe thing is one of my biggest pet peeves. You see it all the time, and in places where the person doing it really should have known better. I've even seen it on the CNN scroll.

Bob Borkowski
12-20-2008, 03:29 PM
But why, then, has the Oakland Athletics logo (on caps for sure and also on uniforms, I think) been A's for a long, long time?

http://www.sportslogos.net/team.php?id=69


Also, upon looking further, I notice that the Philadelphia Athletics used the A's logo as early as 1940.

Makes me wonder if, at some point in time, the apostrophe was used IN CASES LIKE THIS as a way to separate and to avoid the confusion caused by the fact that As spells a word in the English language. Just a thought.

http://www.sportslogos.net/team.php?id=87

OldRightHander
12-20-2008, 04:06 PM
Also, upon looking further, I notice that the Philadelphia Athletics used the A's logo as early as 1940.

Makes me wonder if, at some point in time, the apostrophe was used IN CASES LIKE THIS as a way to separate and to avoid the confusion caused by the fact that As spells a word in the English language. Just a thought.

http://www.sportslogos.net/team.php?id=87

Could it be that the full name of the team was Athletics, so the Apostrophe is meant to make it something of a contraction by representing the left out letters?

Bob Borkowski
12-20-2008, 04:12 PM
Could it be that the full name of the team was Athletics, so the Apostrophe is meant to make it something of a contraction by representing the left out letters?

Makes sense to me.

Are you saying that you see the A's as acceptable usage, then?

Rojo
12-20-2008, 06:09 PM
Could it be that the full name of the team was Athletics, so the Apostrophe is meant to make it something of a contraction by representing the left out letters?


That's my take.

Bob Borkowski
12-20-2008, 06:46 PM
2. If something is a plural and you need to make it possessive, the apostrophe is quite adequate for the job without an additional s thrown in. I have seen the Jones' new car, not the Jones's new car.




OK, thanks guys. So on to the second point that puzzles me...

Granted, it has been a long time since I got any schoolin', but it seems to me that I recall that both of the above examples are correct. I would agree that the Jones' new car is preferred but I thought that the Jones's new car is also OK, if you choose to use it.

Help me out here. I'm well aware that rules can change over time. ;)

camisadelgolf
12-20-2008, 06:50 PM
OK, thanks guys. So on to the second point that puzzles me...

Granted, it has been a long time since I got any schoolin', but it seems to me that I recall that both of the above examples are correct. I would agree that the Jones' new car is preferred but I thought that the Jones's new car is also OK, if you choose to use it.

Help me out here. I'm well aware that rules can change over time. ;)

I was once told by an unreliable source that both were correct at one time, but now it's expected that you don't have the final 's'.

Bob Borkowski
12-20-2008, 08:46 PM
I was once told by an unreliable source that both were correct at one time, but now it's expected that you don't have the final 's'.



Oh, Lordie, I'm so out of touch! :shocked:

paintmered
12-20-2008, 08:50 PM
From the Grammar Girl:


Today's topic is apostrophes.

When I was in second grade, I lost a spelling bee because I misspelled the word its. I put an apostrophe in when I shouldn't have, and it was a very traumatic moment in my young life. So when listeners including Katy from Australia, Kristi from Washington, D.C., Amy, and Jon wrote in asking me to talk about proper apostrophe usage, I had a flicker of self-doubt. But I think this lesson is burned into my mind precisely because of my past misdeeds, and although I can't change my past, I feel the next best thing would be to save all of you from similar apostrophe-induced horrors.

Apostrophes have two main uses in the English language: they stand in for something that's missing, and they can be used to make a word possessive.

Apostrophes first showed up in the 1500s as a way to indicate omissions. Today, the most common place to find this kind of apostrophe is in contractions such as can't (for can not), that's (for that is), and it's (for it is*), but they can also be used in fun ways. If you're writing fiction, you might use apostrophes to eliminate letters to formulate a character's dialect; for example, "I saw 'em talkin' yonder," with apostrophes to indicate that the speaker said 'em instead of them (t-h-e-m), and talkin' instead of talking (t-a-l-k-i-n-g).

It's no wonder that people are confused about apostrophes, because new uses were introduced in the 1600s and again in the 1700s (1), and it wasn't until the mid-1800s that people even tried to set down firm rules (2).

One major new use for the apostrophe was to indicate possession. For example, the aardvark's pencil, where there is an apostrophe s at the end of aardvark, means that the pencil belongs to the aardvark. It does not mean the plural of aardvark, and it does not mean "The aardvark is pencil."

An interesting side note is that it doesn't seem so strange that an apostrophe s is used to make words possessive once you realize that in Old English it was common to make words possessive by adding es to the end. For example, the possessive of fox would have been foxes, which was the same as the plural. I assume that caused confusion, and someone suggested replacing the e with an apostrophe to make fox's in the possessive case. So apostrophe s for the possessive case was initially meant to show that the e was missing, and then the idea caught on and everyone eventually forgot all about the missing e.

Now, normally, I would assume that most people understand apostrophe basics and move on, but there are too many examples to the contrary for me to ignore them.



For some reason, people seem especially prone to apostrophe errors, and most especially people who write signs and flyers. Katy sent me a photo (which you can see on the blog) of a sign in a vegetable market advertising “Banana's $1.50.” Banana's apostrophe s, as though a banana was carrying around pocket change. The apostrophe before the s makes the $1.50 a possession of one lucky banana.

I also would have given anything to have had a camera with me when I came upon a menu advertising “Ladie's Night,” L-a-d-i-e-'-s night. I'm assuming the proprietors meant “Ladies' Night,” but I have this image in my mind of the restaurant providing free entry to one particular laddie.

The bottom line is that whenever you are using apostrophes, especially if you are making signs or flyers, take a second and a third look at them to make sure you're doing it right. Do you want to make your noun possessive, or are you making a contraction?

The sad problem is that what we just talked about is the simple part. There's so much to say about apostrophes that this is going to have to be a two-part series. I'll tackle the really tough stuff next time.

I want to end with an overview of the word that caused me such torment in second grade: its. Confusing the two forms of its is a very common mistake. It's can mean "it is" when an apostrophe is used to make a contraction, but its, i-t-s-no-apostrophe, is a possessive pronoun just like hers, ours, and yours, none of which take an apostrophe.

Every time I see those ubiquitous eBay commercials with three-dimensional its** standing in for products, I feel like the its are out to get me. So maybe that can help you remember to use special care when confronted with its. I think Amy summed it up best, saying, “Only use the apostrophe when it's is short for it is.” It's really that simple. I-t-apostrophe-s always means "it is"; it has nothing to do with possession, no matter what those eBay commercials say about acquiring possessions.

That's all. To cap off this first installment about apostrophes, I have a fabulous song written by a listener named Eileen Thorpe. And I'll play it right after this message.

Now, Eileen must have also been affected by some kind of apostrophe trauma because she wrote these words, which are sung to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree” by Rahel Jaskow of Jerusalem, Israel.

Apostrophe (Oh Christmas Tree)

by Eileen Thorpe

Apostrophe, apostrophe
You drive me oh so batty.
Apostrophe, apostrophe
Your overuse is a travesty.
Some people just can’t get enough
They must think you’re hot stuff
Apostrophe, apostrophe
Some rules to avoid catastrophe.

It’s hers and theirs and yours and its
when you want to possess a bit
And when you need to pluralize,
You don’t need to apostrophize.
And what of words that end in esess?
An apostrophe will only make a mess’s.

I wonder why you so confuse
I’m sure you’re tired of this abuse.
Apostrophe, apostrophe
You drive me oh so batty.

I said it in the last episode about apostrophes, and I'll say it again: there are some confusing situations when it comes to apostrophes. For example, Christine, from Portland, Oregon; Judy from Traverse City, Michigan; Katy from Australia; Kristi from Washington, D.C.; and Rick from Las Vegas, Nevada, all asked how to make a singular word that ends in s possessive. I know that this is a raging debate even at the highest levels of government because Tracey from Mountain View, California, and a listener named Arman both sent me a funny article describing U.S. Supreme Court squabbles over making the word Kansas possessive. Words such as Kansas that end with an s can be stumpers when it comes to apostrophes.

Is it Kansas's statute with an apostrophe s or Kansas' statute with just an apostrophe at the end? Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion and prefers to leave off the extra s, referring to Kansas' statute with just an apostrophe at the end, whereas Justice David Souter wrote the dissenting opinion and prefers the double s of Kansas's statute with an apostrophe before the final s.

So who's right? The first clue is that Justice Thomas' name ends with an s, so you might guess that he is more familiar with the issue. Associated Press style also recommends leaving off the extra s. Some of you have noticed that I tend to favor AP style, so you won't be surprised to learn that I prefer to leave off the extra s. Unfortunately, I have to admit that this isn't a hard-and-fast rule; it's a style issue. Other style books such as Fowler's Modern English Usage recommend adding the apostrophe s to almost all singular words that end with s.* So our first tough issue—how to make words that end with s possessive—doesn't actually have an answer; it's a style issue and you can do it either way.

I always feel bad when the answer is that there isn't an answer, so here's an easier situation that has a firm rule: if the word ending with s is plural, such as aardvarks, then you just add an apostrophe at the end to make it possessive. For example, you could write, "The aardvarks' escape route [s apostrophe] was blocked" to indicate that a family of aardvarks needed to find another way out of danger.

Plural words that don't end with s, such as children, do take an apostrophe s at the end for possession. For example, you could write, "Fortunately, the children's room [children apostrophe s] had a hidden doorway."

Here's a tricky issue with a definite answer: how do you make the plural of a single letter, as in Mind your p's and q's? It's shocking, but you actually use the apostrophe before the s! It looks possessive, but it isn't. The apostrophe is just there to make it clear that you're writing about multiple p's and q's. The apostrophe is especially important when you are writing about a's, i's, and u's because without the apostrophe readers could easily think you are writing the words as, is, and us.

Finally, we'll end with another gray area. Brian in Toronto and a listener named Josh asked whether they should use apostrophes to make abbreviations plural. Brian gets irritated when he sees signs advertising CD's for sale with it written C-D-apostrophe-s. Gen wrote in about the same thing, feeling a sense of horror after seeing CD's written with an apostrophe in the New York Times. Although I share Brian and Gen's irritation and hate seeing it written that way, again, I have to admit that it's a style issue, and some books recommend putting in the apostrophe because it indicates that letters are missing**. It makes me want to let out a big “Hrumph” like Sir Fragalot, but that's the way it is.

Believe it or not, there are even more issues we can talk about related to apostrophes, but I'm afraid I'm going to overwhelm everyone so I'll save them for another day.

That's all.

Bob Borkowski
12-20-2008, 09:10 PM
From the Grammar Girl:

Aha! Interesting last 2 or 3 paragraphs. Depending on your preference, CD's is alright.

Also, p's and q's is fine, too.

A Supreme Court guy prefers to write...Jones's.

Once again, all is right with the world. :cool:

Falls City Beer
12-20-2008, 10:22 PM
Aha! Interesting last 2 or 3 paragraphs. Depending on your preference, CD's is alright.

Also, p's and q's is fine, too.

A Supreme Court guy prefers to write...Jones's.

Once again, all is right with the world. :cool:

"Charles's pen" is correct usage. Has been for some time.

WebScorpion
12-22-2008, 01:31 PM
And sometimes you get lucky and find both problems:

http://www.community-media.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/bras.jpg

Say, did they have a help wanted sign in the window as well? I've been looking for a good custom bra fitter job... :D

WMR
12-23-2008, 04:40 PM
There vs. Their vs. They're usage... It's amazing how many people don't know the proper usage for each word.

...

Then vs. Than usage

...