Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Apostrophe Atrocities

"John has three cat's, a mother cat and it's babie's. One of the kitten's is real cute but the other ones face looks like the hind end of an as's."

This is an all too common example of apostrophe atrocity. As a peaceful prolife Christian, I think people who write like this should be killed. With wood chippers.

Well, that might be a _bit_ harsh. But there is no excuse for anyone who is an aspiring writer to write like this. Not even in an email or Facebook post. Not even if you are dyslexic or don't speak English or just had your brain eaten by a zombie.

If you think you may have committed an apostrophe atrocity, get thee to the English grammar confessional at once. Your penance will involve an intimate encounter with the first page of your Strunk and White.

Strunk and White? That's short for 'The Elements of Style' by William Strunk and E. B. White. Every household that doesn't have a copy wedged next to the other household essentials (The Bible, Webster's Dictionary, The Catechism of the Catholic Church (or your denominational equivalent), and The Star Trek Concordance by Bjo Trimble) is probably inhabited by sister-marrying illiterate hillbillies, rather than the literate cousin-marrying hillbilly type that most of us strive for.

Correct version of above sentence: "John has three cats, a mother and its babies. One of the kittens is real cute but the other one's face looks like the hind end of an ass."

And now, for no apparent reason, a picture with cats.


Allen's Brain said...

My inner grammar teacher wants to tell you that, while you have fixed the apostrophal problems, the sentence still has grammatical issues. It should read, "really cute," not "real cute."

The exception lies in the possibility that you are quoting someone who is--for lack of education or for character-dialectical reasons--speaking in a grammatically-incorrect manner.

My inner grammar teacher is a real snob, and no fun at parties, whatsoever.

Nissa Annakindt said...

My feeling was that a person who committed that many apostrophe atrocities in one sentence would say 'real cute' rather than 'really cute'.

PaperSmyth said...

I got a book written by one of my cousins recently. The dedication page has an apostrophe atrocity. A plural noun had been made possessive when it wasn't supposed to be.

The book was, in part, about schools. **shudder**

"My inner grammar teacher is a real snob, and no fun at parties, whatsoever."

Can I laugh at the placement of whatsoever in that sentence?

And I am so glad you two are "commenting" to each other.

Nissa Annakindt said...

My own grammar knowledge comes almost entirely from being a voracious reader as a child, back in the days when books had proofreaders. So I don't have any strong issues about phrases like 'real cute' in colloquial language. I've realized I actually DO have a problem with 'really cute': the use of the word 'really' violates the dictum 'avoid unnecessary words'. And I wouldn't use the word 'cute', myself, in anything that wasn't colloquial.
Apostrophe atrocities, on the other hand, tick me off to the point that I'd tell people who can't do apostrophes correctly to just never use apostrophes at all, and claim to be in favor of spelling reform. ;)

Sheila Maister said...

I presume you have the incomparable Lynn Truss's 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' on your grammar bookshelf?

Nissa Annakindt said...

I have heard of the book 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves', but was never enough of a grammar snob to buy it.

I don't actually have a problem with writers who violate grammar rules that the average English speaker no longer uses in speech.

My case against the apostrophe atrocities is not based on grammar as much as on the fact that mistakes in the area make one look very ignorant.