This blog originally posted February 26, 2020, before we knew what was ahead and our most serious worry was the use of the apostrophe!
I recently read the sad news that the Apostrophe Protection Society has been shut down. It’s founder John Richards — a 96-year-old grammarian from Great Britain — threw in the towel. He founded the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 with its mission being “to preserve the correct use of this currently much-abused punctuation mark.” He dismantled it because he was tired of fighting the Good Fight. See above: 96 years old.
Actually, I had no knowledge of the Apostrophe Protection Society’s existence (did you notice my correct usage of the apostrophe?) because if I had known about it, I would have been a vocal and, if necessary, paying member. Misuse of the apostrophe is one of my pet peeves — right up there with not using a turn signal and paying for shipping.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who is vaguely familiar with the use of the apostrophe that its misuse, or even lack of use, has become oh-too-common, and much of the blame is on our increasingly pervasive need for technology. We all know that apostrophes can’t be used in dot-com names. They are also a no-no in the passwords which now have taken over our lives.
Lands’ End’s web address, for example, is www.landsend.com. Of course, Lands’ End is notorious for its (did you notice I correctly used the possessive its?) incorrect use of the apostrophe. It should actually be Land’s End, but a typo in the name in the early years when the founders couldn’t afford to correct the mistake resulted in a 57-year misuse of the apostrophe. It probably drove John Richards crazy. I’ll bet he shopped instead at J.C. Penney’s and ate at Popeye’s.
Teachers are apparently becoming increasingly frustrated at their students’ inability to use the apostrophe correctly. (Did you notice I correctly used the placement of apostrophe in the plural students?)They blame it on the fact that the apostrophe actually has two purposes: to replace letters when combining two words (you are becomes you’re, and to signify a possession (child’s play).
I admit that I can’t quite understand the confusion. The first rule is simple. If the noun is plural (e.g. students), the apostrophe goes after the s; if the noun is singular (e.g. student), the apostrophe goes before the s. And if it’s not possessive at all, then don’t include an apostrophe. Grocery produce people: DON’T SELL TOMATO’S, ONION’S, OR PUMPKIN’S.
At the risk of sounding grumpy (and I know you are all thinking I’m already on the grumpiness train), Amazon book reviewers, stop saying things like the writing is so good that your swept back in time. PLEASE CORRECTLY SAY YOU’RE INSTEAD OF YOUR because your grammar is so awful that you’re acting as though you slept through English class.
Mr. Richards, if you are feeling as frustrated as me, please contact me at Nana’s Whimsies, which is nanaswhimsies.com (No apostrophe; I’m part of the problem and not part of the solution.)