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.
Did I honestly just type that?
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.
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.