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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The apostrophe and how to make it look daft

In 2001 the British show Popstars created the singing group Hear’Say, which according to Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, essentially imprisoned the apostrophe in ‘eternal meaningless.’

It might not seem like much of a transgression at first glance, but the fact is, there is absolutely no justification for that apostrophe. Whoever came up with the name must’ve been…well, maybe a product of the grammatical apathy we talked about yesterday.

Prior to this debacle, the apostrophe first turned up in the English language in the 16th century when it was used to indicate dropped letters, like this: “’Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.” (from Hamlet)

Then in the 17th century printers began using the apostrophe before the ‘s’ in singular possessive cases (the cat’s tail), and in the 18th century they decided to put it after the plural possessives as well (the cats’ tails). Which brings us to possessive determiners and possessive pronouns.

Now, I’ve heard of possessive pronouns (mine, ours, yours, his, hers, theirs, its), but I'll admit I hadn’t heard the term possessive determiners, which are apparently: my, our, your, his, her, their, and its. The nice thing is none of them require an apostrophe. Ever. And that’s a pretty easy rule to remember.

Your quiz for today (should you choose to accept it) is a punctuation riddle: Why did all the people stay away from the Giant Kid’s Playground?

See you tomorrow with the answer and another installment of my thoughts on Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a wickedly fun book on punctuation.   


Liz A. said...

One big giant kid? Yikes, I'd stay away! Far away.

Huntress said...

Why? I'm afraid to ask.