Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Dreaded Apostrophe S

I'm not Lynne Truss. I am not perfect and am therefore prone to making grievous grammatical errors as I write for this blog.

What, you know Lynne Truss, doncha? She's the British lady who penned Eats, Shoots & Leaves, the fantastic best-seller that summarized the finer points of British grammar marks (inverted commas versus quotation marks) and outlined her overall punctuation peeves with a comical tone.

You know her, right? RIGHT?!


Well, I guess you would need to be an English language nerd to appreciate such a book in the first place.

Anyway, Lynne Truss harped about the missing apostrophe in the movie title Two Weeks Notice (sic). On a similar vein, I've decided to shed some light on the subject that gets my panties in a twist.

I cannot be silent anymore: I truly abhor seeing the Apostrophe S when it is not used in its intended functions of either indicating the possessive of a noun or in a third-person contraction of the verb "to be."

This isn't the first time I've mentioned this topic. (French people, I'm watching you.)

In more recent news, I've seen the usage of the Apostrophe S expand to indicate plurality, particularly for items that are referenced with lettered and numbered acronyms. It has become acceptable to label multiple Digital Versatile Discs, Compact Discs (do people even buy those anymore?) and Motion Picture Experts Group Audio Layer III as DVD's, CD's, and MP3's, respectively.

I suspect that, for the sake of reducing lengthy, awkward mouthfuls, it was deemed natural to shorten the names and that the attached Apostrophe exists for reasons that are purely aesthetic.

Whenever I see "MP3's" written as such, I cannot help but ask what is in possession of said MP3. Is it its illegal file sharing? Is it its lack of purveying money to the artists who deserve to get paid for their work?

To me, seeing an Apostrophe S with a noun will always make me think of possession. I tend to visualize it with a more concrete example: The cat's ball of yarn.

This means that some hypothetical cat, be it a Russian Blue or a Sacred Birman, is the owner of some equally hypothetical ball of yarn. The ball of yarn belongs to the cat and the Apostrophe S denotes said ownership.

NB: The same principle can be applied for "Ninja Squirrel's nuts." You don't mess with Ninja Squirrel's nuts.

No matter how many times I come across this hybrid of plurality, I can't help but wipe off that Apostrophe in my mind. A part of me, the fuddy-duddy side that wants things to make sense, can't stand this. In fact, I do not know how to express the full extent of my hatred over this dreaded Apostrophe S. The fuddy-duddy part of me dies a little every time it sees these rogue Apostrophes and gives a vehement, agonized scream of terror.

"It shouldn't be there!" it yells. "It should just be DVDs, CDs and MP3s. I don't care if it looks weird without the Apostrophes to other people because it looks perfectly normal to me! I hate the plural Apostrophe S!"

This hatred has surmounted beyond my control. I have an irrational fear that if this scourge isn't eradicated, then it will be at liberty to flourish in size and destroy entire civilisations as we know them.

I try to be accepting. I try to reason with myself that English is an active, ever-evolving language. I try to rationalize that it is only natural that these grammatical changes should happen and that I should be an open-minded individual about this, lest I should be declared to be an intolerant nay-sayer for not wanting to keep up with the times.

I was willing to squelch any urges that would inhibit these necessary social advances. I was even ready to make peace with the notion that the English language will never, ever be the same again.

Until I read this.

Like Michael Douglas portraying the at-the-end-of-his-rope William Foster in Falling Down, I had reached my breaking point.

My eye twitched from a muscular spasm. The corners of my mouth pulled downward. I inhaled sharply like I had winced in pain. Saliva pooled in my buccal cavity; perhaps that was a sign that I might start to spew foam like some cheap fourth-grade volcano-lava project. I collapsed into the fetal position and wanted to declare a life of reclusive hermitage in Voronya, the deepest cave in the world.

Instead, my mind exploded in a livid rampage.

I kid you not: the prospect that hundreds of hormone-crazed adolescents were going to be promiscuous for the first time in their lives didn't rattle me as much as seeing "virginity's" displayed in my Twitter feed did.

Inevitably, my Apostrophe S instinct kicked in and I began to question what virginity possessed.

"Virginity's what? Its fumbling with an improperly-handled condom? The horrible performance teens will partake in due to eager inexperience? The dreadful realization that the first coitus is nothing like the movies make it seem to be?"

Then, the most horrible thought passed through my mind: wait...what if it really is supposed to be "virginity's" and not "virginities?"

My worst fears have come true. The English language that I know and love is disintegrating before my very eyes.

The inner lurking's of my mind can be quite scary, especially when they are pushed to their limit's.

Oh no.

Did I honestly just type that?

Lurking's? LIMIT'S???

It's happening. IT'S HAPPENING!

But it can't be happening. I refuse to let this be!

I shall go refuge myself into the safe haven of Romantic 19th century literature and avoid using any plural form's.

Aw, crud.

Barb the French Bean

Just in case you were wondering, "virginity" isn't supposed to have a plural form at all. I've already dunked my head in a bucket of ice-cold water as punishment.


  1. Actually, "virginity" is a non-count noun and thus can't e pluralized in the first place.

    And I have to say, I am also offended by the misuse of the apostrophe, but most vehemently in the two exceedingly common words "your" and "you're." Even my ESL students can get that one!

  2. "The language is evolving" is just code for we're too damned lazy to learn/teach it correctly. Twitterspeak FTW, yo.

  3. May: Funnily enough, as I was typing this post, I even began to doubt that there *was* a plural form for "virginity," but that certainly didn't stop my mind from going on its rampage. My worst fears really HAVE come true.

    I think I'm going to go dunk my head in a bucket of ice-cold water now.

    Heather Rose: Wut, wut, yo.


  4. That entire post was painful and makes me fear for the future of humanity. I am also a grammar nazi. I was beyond thrilled when I heard about those two men who went around the U.S. fixing grammar mistakes on public signs. If I see any sort of grammatical inaccuracy, people close by had better back away slooowly or they are liable to get burned by the steam coming out of my ears. THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THE U.S. IS SO FAR BEHIND OTHER FIRST WORLD COUNTRIES! THEY KNOW THE GRAMMAR BETTER THAN NATIVES! *fume*

    Apologies for the shouting. The laziness of people nowadays...XO

  5. By the way, that nazi was purposely posted as lowercase.

  6. Anonymous: Believe me, any reason for shouting about this topic is understood *perfectly*. I'm gladdened that I am not the only frustrated person who conveyed to using an ALL-CAPS FURY!!!

    *pats hair down*

    Jnana: Maybe we need to start a support group. :P

    Ash-Matic: You, sir, are truly the king of puns! I can't express how clever "Apostrogeddon" is! :D


  7. I might be missing the point of this post because I do that often, but, it must be said that really crazy scary you is kind of hot. Just sayin'.

    I get that way about the more common "your" and "you're." It's just SO BASIC. SO SO BASIC. PLEASE PEOPLE LEARN.

    I'll start noticing the 's from now on, though, so thank for that.

  8. If it's any comfort at all, I think I have read the book you mentioned at the beginning of this rant.

  9. French Bean, can you please be on AIM or maybe even Facebook sometime? I haven't seen you in AGES!

    And to be on topic, yeah, bad apostrophe use is annoying. I'll be sure not to use apostrophes after acronyms anymore; I wasn't entirely sure what the proper protocol was in that case. Now I know. ;)

  10. Apostrophe S doesn't get to me so much as the your and you're type mistakes. The latter mistakes are just plain ignorance, while the sooner could sincerely be a typo/the fingers typing faster than the brain.


  11. Lorraine: I know. Part of what makes this so frustrating is how basic these differences are! Ugh.

    I would also say that my scary angered self would be hot if she made a volcano explode and a lightening bolt crash from the sky. :P

    Dave: YAY! Someone who is in the know! :D

    Little Shepherd: All right, buddy. I'll check in to chat with you sometime! Good to see the protocol has rubbed off on you, too. ^.^

    Mik: It is true that the former could be accredited to being a typo. It can happen to anyone, but it only takes seeing so many misplaced Apostrophes to get me to lose my wits. :P


  12. Apostrocalypse?

    I was going to write something more constructive, but I feared my own use of that most dreaded of punctuation might send you into the kind of rage that might precipitate Roland Emmerich into making a movie about it.

  13. That would happen only if it were used incorrectly! ;)


  14. Apostrophe S has always confused me. As a kid I never really used to understand when to us it or not. Was it; the cat's ball or; the cats ball. Later in life I finally worked it out but because I see used wrong so much I still wonder if I've got it right sometimes.

    I feel your pain

  15. No one is ever born knowing how to speak a language and use its grammar correctly; all of this has to be acquired, which is why I try to be understanding with others(until I go into my Apostrogeddon fury).

    Also: in reading "cats ball," I got an image of several cats dancing in a masquerade party. :P


  16. Breathe Barba, breathe!

    I've never seen the 's used as a plural form, but it would definitely get on my nerves as well!

    My problem with the 's is that I can't seem to get my students to remember to use it! All I see are the heavy-duty "the dog of my father" or "the hat of my brother" and it drives me nuts!

    For some reason this post and the comments have reminded me of My Fair Lady and Professor Higgins complaining about how the English aren't being taught their language properly ("While in America they haven't spoken it in years"). lol! I will say this for Spain's educational system: they take their grammar VERY seriously!

  17. I had similar issues with my own French students in which I would repeat to them that they *should* use the Apostrophe S to indicate possession it would make them sound a little more like Anglophones.

    Instead, my advice would go in one ear, out the other, and I would be granted such classics as "the car of my sister," "the party of my friend," and "the house of my grandmother." I can understand the logic of French grammar and why it would cause them to say that ("la voiture de ma soeur," etc.) but still! *shakes head*


  18. yeah, it's pretty much the same logic with Spanish... and my students understand what they're supposed to do (the moment I indicate there's a mistake, without specifying what it is, they know and correct that for an 's) but they just DON'T do it! So frustrating!

  19. hehehe... you should totally recruit Jenny the Weasel in your war against improper use of the 's!

    Instructions here:
    and an example here:

    Have fun! ;o)

  20. Loved it. The graphic's are awesome too... KIDDING KIDDING, I know I didn't need the 's :)

    - Patty

    1. Aw, I know you're just teasing me...RIGHT???


  21. Hahhahaha very nice. My dad sends me messages like, "The cat's are playing together" and it makes me weep.

  22. Grammar can be funny, but you make it hilarious!

  23. I have the same issue. With everthing!!! Even though I probbably commit the same errors.


Apparently, leaving comments on this blog is a hit-or-miss game of Russian roulette: you are either lucky and can comment away, or you are required to log in when the settings are CLEARLY set to allow trouble-free commenting (sorry 'bout that, folks). If anything, the Facebook page is always a viable option. :) -Barb