The Apostrophe - Grammar Errors
Introducing the Apostrophe
I'd like to introduce my friend, the astute Señor Apostrophe. He is quite the versatile character. Sure, he might be a little short and rather tiny, but his job description makes up for his small size.
Señor Apostrophe loves his job: he's possessive, smashes words together, and inserts himself into situations as needed.
He generally enjoys his job, you see. He is so often used, that people just love to stick him wherever they think they need him.
He's all right with that. He likes to be needed.
Until he gets used...and abused.
That's right. Señor Apostrophe doesn't like to be vicitmized. He should not be used to make words plural, nor should he be used randomly. He despises that.
He'd like you to know about his job. First, there are the "positives."
Oh, the Lamentable Life of the Apostrophe
Positive Use of Apostrophe: Contractions
He loves smashing words together. This is one of his favorite activities. It makes him feel efficient. He takes two words that take up too much space, then smashes them together resulting in one word. Then, he leaves his mark. He says that people call these contractions, but he prefers "smashing" - a word that's easier to remember.
Two of his favorite words to smash are "it" and "is". He rams them into each other to make the word "it's". He'd like very much to say with authority that all too often, writers forget to use him for the express purpose of smashing words together. He requests that you use him so he doesn't feel neglected.
The words "they" and "are" are some other favorites - there are so many letters to smash. When Señor smashes these, they create "they're", not "their" or "there".
Two other favorites are "who" and "is". He dutifully smashes and comes up with "who's". Don't you dare use whose or else you might find Señor Apostrophe crying: :'(
He has another "smashing" fetish. Sometimes, Señor Apostrophe likes to take just one word and perform his magic. Let's take the word "suppose" and smash it: "s'pose". Apostrophe relishes that word.
Indeed, Señor Apostrophe really likes his job.
It's interesting to note that Señor Apostrophe hasn't been part of the English language that long. He made his first appearance in the 16th century, Shakespeare's time. He was used primarily to show dropped letters from words. Of course, you now see how Señor's job responsibilities have expanded.
Another Positive Use of the Apostrophe: The Possessive Case
He likes to be possessive, too. Not in a bad way, though. He doesn't have a girlfriend or anything like that. He's possessive of words.
If something belongs to Johnny, Señor will insert himself willingly. It's Johnny's book. It's Johnny's car. It's Johnny's life. It's Johnny's decision.
In the examples above, Señor really likes Johnny - the word, that is.
Did I mention that Señor Apostrophe seriously likes his words? He will lord over them and make him his, leaving his characteristic mark.
The dog's collar. Ha! Did you really think the collar belonged to the dog? No! Apostrophe has taken ownership!
My sister's money. Of course, Señor Apostrophe went right over and made his mark on that money.
You see? Señor Apostrophe is quite possessive. If you're not careful, he might possessyou! On second thought, he can't. Señor Apostrophe doesn't have jurisdiction - those are in the possessive pronouns department. Nope - not Señor Apostrophe's job.
Señor Apostrophe Has Other Job Descriptions
Okay, so Señor Apostrophe is slightly neurotic. Besides spending the day smashing words and possessing others, he loves to poke his nose in other letters.
Yes, good ol' Señor, he loves making friends. If a letter is off by itself, he'll walk over and befriend him. Got more than one "A" on your report card? Señor will make sure he's there to witness it: "A's."
He delights when the little humans take good grades home and show the bigger humans all the A's and B's on report cards. He always feels utterly loved in these moments. They just stare and stare, and sometimes shed happy tears.
Señor also loves helping to "shorten" the years. If the year was 1969, and a human wants to shorten it, Señor will avail himself to the task: The summer of '69.
Señor Apostrophe's Job: The Negatives
Señor delights when he's used correctly. But, when the humans overuse him, he gets all mixed up and can't do his job correctly.
No Plurals, Please
Señor wants to stress that he does not make words plural - generally. Sometimes he goes on special assignment (and he has to make a list of do's and don't's). However, he won't possess a "shoe" that becomes "shoes" or a "potato" that becomes "potatoes". Pluralism isn't part of Señor's job description.
Incorrect Use Of Words That Are Plural
Señor knows that he doesn't make words plural. But, he does commiserate with words that are already plural.
So, if Señor Apostrophe needs to make a stop at the Men's Room, he'll do so. He also has many women friends that talk about women's issues. Señor inserted his characteristic mark on these two words (men's and women's) because they are plural and he had to possess them. The issues of women belong to Señor as well as the room of the men.
But, on other plural words that end in "s", Señor's life gets a little more complicated. He hates it when things get complicated. But, he still stakes his mark and goes on with his life: The twins' room. Señor Apostrophe follows the "s" to try to keep things as un-complicated as possible.
He has three pet dogs that have collars and he has to frequently wash their collars. He tries to get his friend Snooty Semicolon to do it, but she won't have it. So, he sighs and heads to the washroom saying, "I'll wash the dogs' collars." You see, he has to possess the collars and in order to do that, he has to go back to the word "dogs" and add his mark. But "dogs" is already plural, you see. It's not one dog, it's more than one: dogs. He can't insert his mark between the "g" and the "s" because that could get confusing. So, he keeps it simple and just plunks his mark after the "s".
Things That Change
Señor Apostrophe used to avail himself when he wanted to possess someone's name that ended with the letter "s": Mrs. Kings' cookies. Mrs. Kings lives in a big house with a big kitchen to make lots of cookies.
But, Señor acknowledges with a sigh that things change. These days he's used to possess a word slightly differently when it ends in "s": Mrs. Kings's cookies.
But, he will insist that with old names, he shan't possess the word with another "s": Artemis' temple.
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© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun