Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sm'ite th'e Mis'plac'ed, Mis'u'sed, Ov'er'worke'd Apos'tro'phe's's, Please

The grammarian in me screams inwardly every time I see the apostrophe overworked and underappreciated.

Contrary to popular opinion, the apostrophe does not need to add its workload. Its two main jobs are:

1) to form contractions and
2) to show possession.

Let me give an example from the typical labor and delivery scene.

1) To form contractions:

Mary's in a lot of pain having her baby.
That is, Mary is in a lot of pain.

(If she were in transition, of course, we would
fire the apostrophe and use periods, which Mary
hasn't had for nine months.
Mary. Is. In. Pain. And. It's. All. Bob's. Fault!)

2) To show possession.

Bob's fault. Bob takes ownership of his fault, whether or not he would use that same term for Mary's pain. The apostrophe is properly placed, even if Mary's anger isn't.

The apostrophe's job does not include adding itself to an "s" to make a singular word plural.

Bob and Mary are sleep-deprived, so let's (let us) leave them alone. She had twins, by the way, not twin's.

Follow me, please, to the grocery store. We'll (we will) call it Klein's because Mr. Klein owns this store, and I used to work for Mr. Klein. He owns the Forest Hill Lanes as well. Lanes, not Lane's, where a restaurant adjoins the bowling alley. I once waited tables at that restaurant, which was then called The Tankard. My mom hated the name, but that's (that is) beside the point.

Klein's sells flowers. A few feet inside the store there's (there is) the flower fridge. I love the bouquets, but cringe at the sign:

Rose's $9.99 a doz

The price is good, but the punctuation's (punctuation is) horrible. There was no one there named Rose. Rose didn't own $9.99 a doz. And to think "Rose is $9.99 a doz" just doesn't (does not) make sense. But if they are selling 12 roses for almost ten bucks, then say so: Roses--$9.99 a doz.

Here's a little quiz to see what you've learned.

1. Which is correct?
a. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet.
b. There are 26 letter's in the English alphabet.

2. Which is correct?
a. Zoanna get's pretty uptight about misused apostrophe's.
b. Zoanna gets pretty uptight about misused apostrophes.

3. Which is correct?
a. One's behavior follows one's thinking; therefore, to write correctly, one must think correctly.
b. Ones behavior follow's ones thinking; therefore....

If you answered A,B,A (in that order), give yourself 100%. If you missed one, please review the lesson. If you missed two, please see me after class. We'll grab some coffee and a grammar book and discuss this really, deep, eternally-valuable stuff.

If you missed all three, I still love you. Do you still love me? I can be such a pest.


Kristin said... busy in, let's say December when I have to teach plural possesion with an apostrophe??

Leanne said...

I laughed so hard...and got 3/3! That's why I'm the proofreader. Do we get to do coffee anyway?? (I got your e-mail; check your inbox for a reply)

Vicki said...

Ok, you probably wrote this post because of me alone... not that everything is about me, but I am a big time offender on this... BTW... I couldn't decide on #3 - I kept going back and forth. But I got #1 & #2 right... does that count?

Zoanna said...

As for #3, one's behavior means one owns the behavior. It's his behavior.
The word "follows" is just a verb, so we leave it alone. If it got an apostrophe, we'd read "follow is" or be looking for what follow owns. Yeah, senseless. An apos'phe shows a letter or letters have been left out.
Congrats on 2 out of three, girl. Let's get coffee.

Zoanna said...

Leanne, I'll see you Thursday eve for coffee!

Amy said...

2. Which is correct?
a. Zoanna get's pretty uptight about misused apostrophe's.
b. Zoanna gets pretty uptight about misused apostrophes.

c. Zoanna is inside my brain.

I *heart* you! Misused apostrophes are the bane of my existence!! :)

Amy said...

oops, I guess that should have been:

c. Zoanna's inside my brain


Anonymous said...

Oh fun! I got 100%! I think I asked you this before, but have you read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss? You'd love it!

Sarah said...

Eventhough I aced the quiz, I know that I'm guilty. Question, what's the correct way to make a name ending in an s Thomas? No matter how I do it, it always looks wrong.

Anonymous said...

This from under Apostrophes. I agree w/ Mr. J.

DAILY GRAMMAR - - - - by Mr. Johanson

Lessons 401-405 - Punctuation - Apostrophes

Lesson 401 - Punctuation - Apostrophes

Use an apostrophe to indicate possession with nouns. A singular noun forms the possessive adding 's. Write the noun; change no letters; drop no letters; and then simply add 's. This rule is always the same for each singular noun. Examples: baby - baby's; cow - cow's; Mr. Bass - Mr. Bass's

(Some authorities feel that only an apostrophe is needed when the noun ends in "s." That works okay for written material, but if you say it, you must say the extra "s" sound; therefore, I feel that the "s" is necessary in written material also.)


Jessi said...

Wow. And I think I can get obsessive about stuff... I did get all 3 right, and I actually LOVE English stuff and all (prep. phrases, apostrophes, etc); however, judging from this post, I think that having only a kindergartener left homeschooling must have left you quite bored!!

Bethany said...

crazy ;)
I like to use punctuation to make cute designs. Hee hee.

Zoanna said...

Jessi, truth be told, I am bored with just one kindergartener at home. Good thing I have art class to teach, and I guess a good thing for me to get a job. I'd rather be teaching high school English again, but it wasn't in God's plans for this year. (Homeschoolers don't pay much and I couldn't handle public school and private schools don't pay much either, considering all the time involved. I'm the type who'd rather volunteer my services or get paid VERY well for something.)

Ashleigh said...

Phew. I passed too. :-) When I read your post I immediately thought of the book Danielle mentioned. I haven't quite finished reading it yet, but it's a very funny look at punctuation.