Using the Apostrophe (Punctuation, Part 3)

It's all double-Dutch to your spellcheck!

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Writers often feel overwhelmed with apostrophes, etc.  photo news.com.auInnovative ways to teach kids how to use the apostrophe in case they become greengrocers!  photo mightyredpen.wordpress.com
Writers often feel overwhelmed with apostrophes, etc.  photo news.com.au
Writers often feel overwhelmed with apostrophes, etc. photo news.com.au
Innovative ways to teach kids how to use the apostrophe in case they become greengrocers!  photo mightyredpen.wordpress.com
Innovative ways to teach kids how to use the apostrophe in case they become greengrocers! photo mightyredpen.wordpress.com

Greengrocers Hate the Apostrophe

 Many years ago, even before I was swinging in daddy's cojones, the apostrophe was used to indicate missing or dropped letters in a word. By many years ago; I actually mean several centuries, in fact, all the way back to the Bard's time (and here was out first apostrophe of this article). As most know, one of the most important uses of the apostrophe in modern times is to indicate the possessive noun: instead of laboriously penning, “All the way back to the time of the Bard,” we can shorten things as shown.

The poor old apostrophe has never known much surcease though the ages, being changed, railed-against by various erudite publications, and gentlemen who should have been told to “get a life” had that useful criticism been in vogue back then.

First of all, it might be germane (but still in English, don’t panic!), to list the Possessive determiners and Possessive pronouns that DON’T require the apostrophe (but all too often get a gratuitously saddled with one, for good luck, apparently).

They are:- Determiners: my, our...your, your...his, their...her, their...its, their.

Pronouns, mine, ours...yours, yours...his, theirs...hers, theirs...and its, theirs.

Notice especially the “its” in this group. (Not “tits,“ you berk!) It is the one possessive singular most often misused. People write “”Its the best time of the year,” wrongly dropping the apostrophe from the “it is” contraction, “It’s the best time of the year.“.

And...” If you love the country, respect it’s needs and it’s beauty.” WRONG possessive adjectives don’t take the apostrophe. It should have read, “If you love the country, respect its needs and its beauty.” But I bet if you open practically any webpage with lengthy text, you will find the apostrophe and “its” misused. Not to mention one or two in (ahem) Hubpages! I’ve got it right for...nearly two years now! And also the “It has” takes the apostrophe, too, as in “He has his car; it’s been fixed.”

Okay, where wuz we...We know the apostrophe takes on the burden of indicating the possessive of a singular noun. “The writer’s article.” “The CEO of Hubpage’s inflated salary.”

But note this...important!!! When the possessor is plural, but the name does NOT end in an “s,” the apostrophe also precedes the indicative, final “s.” “The women’s remarkable work.” “The men’s difficult jobs.”

But with a regular plural noun (boys, infants, girls, etc., ) the apostrophe gracefully hangs-back and follows the “s” “The boys’ teachers,” “The infants’ parents.” and so on.

Clear as mud? Right, onward and downwards.

The apostrophe can indicate time or quantity, “In one year’s time.” (Sing.)

Two months’ notice.” (Plu.).

“Nasty little imp, isn’t it?” (Is it not?).

Yes, it can revert to its old usage of indicating missing letters. Isn’t, Aren’t, “I will, or I won’t.” “I might or I mightn’t.”

“She’d’ve eaten more chips if she wasn’t so bloomin’ fat!” (would have)

For effective or poetic license, and to imitate real dialogue. “I s’pose this one’s on me!”

“I might have killed her, per’aps.” Note there can be some ambiguity here. Some might have written, “P’raps,” for example. This would also indicate a common mispronunciation of the word as well as missing letter(s).

Incidentally, an apostrophe is greatly needed in some regional English, such as some found in the Antipodes, such as “This ’avo’" "She's a beaut' mate" (This afternoon and She's a beauty - Australian). And, indeed, can cover quite large gaps. “Jo’berg,” Johannesburg. “’Frisco,” or “San Fran’” For the gay capital of the free world.

Our humble apostrophe is a busy li'lle bee, isn’t it?

Contractions which have become part of the lingua franca as a shortened version don’t usually require an apostrophe to indicate missing letters. Hence, “Flu, Phone, Bus, Photo, Tele, (Or telly), Fridge, Marge, etc., etc., look over-adorned when wearing an apostrophe. You might still see one on words like ’burger, or not. Some might think you were about to tuck into an honest citizen, rather than a product from McDonald’s. (The company argues that they use an apostrophe because they actually mean McDonald’s Corporation.) So the apostrophe is still wrongly placed...I guess when you have 20 billion ‘burgers sold, or whatever the figure is today, you can dispose of the apostrophe as you please!

Remember: You will be forgiven most glitches with the apostrophe, EXCEPT confusing the missing letter in “It’s - It is; It has, with the possessive “Its,” NO apostrophe. This won’t do, it’s absolutely unforgivable!

In "Eats Shoots and Leaves," by Lynne Truss, the text that helps me with punctuation articles, (but is so full of information it can be confusing) the author wryly smiles at some of the obvious mistakes she sees, or have been pointed out to her, in the everyday world; often glitches by people and departments that really should have known better or hired more educated advisers.

Such as the often ignored fact that the apostrophe is now NOT required to be inserted in the plural of abbreviations. MP's is MPs in 2010. The 1990's is now merely 1990s, and so on...why? Who knows, laziness probably. (Cousins in the USA, y'all 'r' still doin' things th'old way!). Blimey! I bet they use a plenitude of apostrophes ovah thar!

Leave it to the Brits! Evidently, for years, a certain Keith Waterhouse published a column in several newspapers called "Association for the Abolition of the Aberrant Apostrophe," in which appeared appalling examples of apostrophetic accidents.

Such as the groin-grabbing, "Prudential - were here to help you." (but no longer, apparently). Of course, it should have read, "Prudential - we're here to help you."

Those generally admirable folk, the Greengrocer’s (ahem ?), misuse the apostrophe so often in advertising their wares, they have their very own apostrophe, the “Greengrocer’s Apostrophe.” (hope you picked the first one as being wrong)

Lemon’s

Orange’s Etc.

Don’t forget to point these glitches out to your local greengrocer when he’s busy in the market this week and then pick the soggy tomato from your face! (Tommaaato’s!!)

Of course, some missing or inadvertently added apostrophes can be extremely funny, such as “Dicks in tray” (nice to have them served properly) Probably should have a hyphen, too, “Dick’s in-tray”

Or “New members welcome drink” Must have been AA!

One of the ugliest non-use of the apostrophe that shouldn’t have been there anyway, is when it is wrongly replaced by a comma. This might be known as the Grocer’s Comma.

Apple,s

Avocado,s

Dumbshit,s

Another trend in “text speak” today is to leave all hope of apostrophes or other punctuation marks out all together, creating a kind of robot-speak.

“Hubber output.”

“Greengrocer daily offer.”

“Im Klato”

“Your an idiot” (you’re)

“Client toilet”

And perhaps all this spells the death of punctuation.

You have to be careful about how and whom you criticise, too.

One such academic was left blushing and with egg on his face when, while on holiday, he reprimanded a grocer for writing “Carrott’s” on his stall. “It’s misspelled and wrongly punctuated, “he harrumphed. The grocer extended his hand, “Bill Carrott,” he smiled, “Now, just what’s wrong wit’ sign?”

Truss answers one problem at length with the apostrophe which I am going to prune harshly.

Modern names ending in “s,” or foreign names with unpronounceable “s” endings, (including biblical names), does add a final “s” after an apostrophe in the possessive.

“Robert Burns’s poetry.”

“Lynne Truss’s excellent books on punctuation.”

But where the “s” - apostrophe has been traditionally used - as in ancient names - the usage does not change.

“Archimedes’ screw”

“Achilles’ heel.”

The exception in modern usage (please forgive me!) is where the ending has an “iz” sound.

“Bridges’ score”

“Moses’ tablets.”

And Christ is always excepted,

“Jesus’ disciples.”

Doubtlessly we need to change this crap to add some cohesion.

Now, if you have enjoyed this small peep at the apostrophe and its uses, but you want to explore further, you could do a lot worse than buy the little book herein mentioned. You will find that the apostrophe has got itself mired in a labyrinth of terminology and error beyond the scope of this hub, which I am sure will be little read anyway!

Happy apostrophyzing!

 

 

 

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Comments 16 comments

leni sands profile image

leni sands 5 years ago from UK

It's so nice to see more hubs on English Language aspects. Very useful, keep up the good work.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Another appreciated lesson of (about?) punctuation. Thanks!

“Okay, where wuz we...” – was an insertion that gave me the impression you could’ve been a notable teacher. And why may I not use the [brackets] instead of the (brackets)?

Another question, Sir: Your sentence: Or “New members welcome drink” Must have been AA! -

Should this have been: “New-members' welcome-drink” must have been... aah! (Why did you use a capital-M for the 'must' in your sentence? I’ve noticed ‘fishy’ capital letters in the middle of other sentences too, and would like to know if there shouldn't have been a full stop before the capital letter? (And is it ‘capital letter’ or ‘capital-letter’?)

Of course, I need a course! :))))

Please regard this too-long comment as a solid proof that I’ve paid attention and that I’m eager to master your beautiful language. Thanks!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Good article! Wish more folks would read and heed it! Glad you touched on one of my pet peeves: using an apostrophe before an "s" which is actually there only to show the word or acronym is pluralized. (I know - you might object to my American use of "z" here but if I use "s", my spell-check will be all over me! ) An example is saying something happened in the 1990s. There is no need for an apostrophe there but pluralized numbers frequently get one. It's no different than putting one in toy's or rug's - unless the toy or rug owns the next item in the sentence.

What about: "get all one's p's and q's in place? I suppose it looks odd to say "ps" and "qs". Are those exceptions? They're simply pluralized alpha characters but they look confusing and my spell-check is quibbling about it. LOL

Then there are the "their's" and "her's" for words which are already possessive. Cringe! LOL. And who can forget the casual exchange between "they're", "there" and "their"? ugh.

But I MUST stop m'self! ;-> it's too easy to branch out beyond the use and misuse of the lowly apostrophe, which is the subject here and for which I thank you, kind sir!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hello Lenisands, Martiecoester and Nelliana. I am off for the weekend. This is the problem with punctuation, you can get it all down pat and then forget all the rules again! It's like trying to attain perfection. Even if you could achieve such a state, it would cost too much to maintain. Bob.

PS. I often think the teachers make as many mistakes as the pupils unless they are immersed in the subject 24/7 Yes, I taught in university, but speech, debate and journalism! Bob


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A great hub and so original too.

Thank you for sharing and take care.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Hugs . . . yes we forget. I still must thank my 4th grade teacher, Miss Carstarphen, for somehow managing to get the rules into us almost painlessly - like osmosis. I err anyway but it's always amazing when it seems to come naturally more than relying on deliberation each time. The saddest part of her story was that she was fired for failing to go on for more degrees. In fact I'm not even sure she had a bachelor's. But what a teacher! Thus is proven that it's not always formal education which makes a person well-educated.

Thanks for your further explanation - and I hope your weekend is going swimmingly!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Perfect lesson and put in a few pits to make us laugh. I enjoyed reading it.


Diogenes 5 years ago

Nellieanna: Thanks for all the comments and well wishes...Haha..swimmingly and the well!

HH Thanks as ever...pits?? I'll have to have a look, I never usually read this rubbish! Hheheh Bob


Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 5 years ago from Vermont, USA

The only way I can remember to not use an apostrophe for posessive pronouns is to remind myself, "If you don't use an apostrophe for 'his' why would you use one for 'hers'?"

Then I agonize over the proliferation of quotation marks and...freshen up that drink I didn't need half as much five minutes ago!

CP


diogenes 5 years ago

Yes, Chris: I can't help having a lot of sympathy for authors who refused to add commas or other punctuation. Although done properly, it does seem to make reading easier...Bob


Penny 5 years ago

So, presumably the possessive form of "one" follows the same rule as "it":

It found its own way home.

Whatever ones opinion on the matter is...

Yes?


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Ha! There has been some erudite argument over this. Apparently, it does take an apostophe in the possessive.,,"whatever one's own opinion might be." "Its and It's" are the unique abberation.

Thank you for comment...Bob


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hello Bob :)

I only just found this!

A topic dear to my heart ~ indeed, I have written a hub on the subject, too :)

I loved Lynne Truss's book ~ and have a copy!

Very good!


diogenes 5 years ago

Hi again dear...great minds think alike..."Let's Plagiarise!"

Bob

PS I'm sorry you did this, too, it's sure to be better than my humble effort!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Better?! ~ Definitely not!!!

Anything which starts with 'Greengrocers Hate the Apostrophe' is bound to be good! :)


diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

They also hate runner beans, too, I can never get any when i shop in the local market!

Heh...Bob

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