Apostrophobia ... N. an Expaggerated or Irrational Dislike of Misplaced Apostrophes: Hyper-Punctuation? Keith Davidson Considers the Pro(')s and Con(')s of Writing's Little Helper

Article excerpt

From time to time we get little fits of this sort of thing:


There have been few changes at Zippos, but though the excellent band is no more, I was strangely (because in the outside world it would drive me bonkers) heartened to see that much of the "Zippos Circus" signage remains untroubled by apostrophes, even incorrectly applied, though obviously only a deeply troubled saddo would come to a circus to tut-tut over crimes against punctuation ...

Kathryn Flett, The Observer (20 September 2009)

... the advert wasn't howlingly bad ... it was a more picky kind of mistake ... "There's so many to choose from" and the "s" after the apostrophe had been replaced by an "re" which is technically correct, the full sentence rightly being: "There are so many ...", not: "There is" and, actually, "there're is a pretty ugly construction. But, still, some ... had stood up on the tube, and sub-edited a wrong advert.

Pedants ... can go too far ...

But, by and large, it's surely immensely better, isn't it, to err on the side of getting things right rather than to miscommunicate, and boast your ignorance, and lazily confuse? And now, delightfully, graffitists with perfect grasps of syntax are getting in on the act. Things are looking up ...

Euan Ferguson, 'Man your apostrophes, my friends, and support the pedants' revolt', The Observer, (13 December 2009) [But note some inconsistent use of commas, found wanting or redundant.]

Cheerful weekend journalism, of course, trivial enough in context but in the journalistic line of 'The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation': Keith Waterhouse, Bill Bryson, John Humphrys, Lynne Truss ... as if these are the things that really matter.

'pedants' revolt'

Birmingham City Council is wet, cowardly, solecistic and philistine to abolish apostrophes on its street signs.

... Punctuation continually changes, like all language. But it should wait for a consensus. Unilateral destruction by a council, even one so eminent, is linguistic vandalism.

Philip Howard, The Times (30 January 2009)

Exasperated by living in a street where the language signage shows a cavalier disregard for punctuation, Stefan Gatward has been painting apostrophes on to the signs of "St Johns Close", in Tunbridge Wells [no less!], so that they announce "St John's Close".

... "The trouble is that some teachers don't know how to use grammar properly, so children don't either. Local authorities just don't bother," he said.

... "I fought for the preservation of our heritage and our language but some people seem happy to let that go. I'm not."

Chrys Smyth, The Times (18 August 2009)

Note the vituperative language, and your fault as ever! But what is this 'heritage'?

For instance, Goats' cheese tart--did the menu really need that apostrophe, and after the <-s> in any case? In principle just a noun phrase, comprising a compound noun in which the first element is itself an embedded compound noun: [goat(s)+cheese]+tart. So what has a possessive apostrophe got to do with it? No doubt prompted by the plural <-s> inflexion, it marks the item as a possessive pre-modifier of a following nominal component, perhaps a quite different compound: goats'+[cheese+tart] ('cheese tart for goats'!). If you must have an apostrophe here that would be to mark the intended pre-modifying compound, as singular since we're not talking about cheeses: *[goat(s)+cheese]+'s tart. But that's not what you'd say! But then, just to confuse things, there's sheep's milk kefalotiri ... in which, since sheep has no plural inflexion, the <-s> must be a genetive inflexion and marked according to the singular placing rule (as below). So perhaps it's goat's cheese manchego ..., after all, and cow's milk mozzarella in lieu of buffalo's[?] milk ... They're all marked thus as singluar throughout my cheese book, though, as count nouns, goat, cow and buffalo do take plural inflexions, and we're not talking about cheeses from the milk of single animals. …


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.