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a grammar nazi's punctuation blues
January 18, 2007 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Apostrophes, apostrophes, more apostrophes. Yet more apostrophes. They're "everywhere". It's grammar hell - literally!
posted by progosk (88 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Links four and five don't work for me. My favorite, however, is the overuse of quotation marks. It's as though every sign I see has some sort of sarcastic bent.
posted by Brittanie at 2:59 PM on January 18, 2007


They work for me.
posted by joshuaconner at 3:02 PM on January 18, 2007


I used to work at a coffee house where the manager constantly made signs with inappropriate use of quotation marks. I think he meant them as emphasis... sort of an underscore or italics equivalent.

One day he asked me to add an item to the chalkboard menu, so I jokingly wrote it as "Fresh 'Squeezed' Orange Juice." It's still there, two years later.

"Nice" post, by the way.
posted by brundlefly at 3:10 PM on January 18, 2007


Don't you mean "overuse" of "quotation" marks, "Brittanie"?
posted by arcticwoman at 3:10 PM on January 18, 2007


Drat, I meant quotation mark's, "of course."
posted by arcticwoman at 3:11 PM on January 18, 2007


I have a friend who adds the word "literally" to nearly every sentence she says. On top of that, she uses it incorrectly every time.

I love her dearly, but I also want to bludgeon her.
posted by Shecky at 3:18 PM on January 18, 2007


My local grocery store often combines their apostrophe and quotation mark abuses... It's almost like found art... As in this little note I saw at the meat counter yesterday:

"Ground Beef" Pattie's

I'm re-cringing just thinking about it.
posted by amyms at 3:23 PM on January 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


what's worse is when you see this horrible punctuation every time you go to the store to buy some portabello's!
posted by snofoam at 3:24 PM on January 18, 2007


I love her dearly, but I also want to bludgeon her.
Figuratively, of course.

"Ground Beef" Pattie's
That's awesome, not only are they implying that the meat belongs to Pattie, they are questioning whether or not it is beef.
posted by arcticwoman at 3:25 PM on January 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Dear Mister Language Person: What is the purpose of the apostrophe?

Answer: The apostrophe is used mainly in hand-lettered small business signs to alert the reader than an "S" is coming up at the end of a word, as in: WE DO NOT EXCEPT PERSONAL CHECK'S, or: NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ITEM'S. Another important grammar concept to bear in mind when creating hand- lettered small-business signs is that you should put quotation marks around random words for decoration, as in "TRY" OUR HOT DOG'S, or even TRY "OUR" HOT DOG'S.
-- Dave Barry, "Tips for Writer's"
posted by knave at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2007


...every time you go to the store to buy some portabello's!

Welcome to amerika.
posted by popechunk at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2007


I learned everything I needed to know about the apostrophe from Bob the Angry Flower.
posted by hangashore at 3:29 PM on January 18, 2007


It started out a minor annoyance, but now misused apostrophes drive me insane.... literally.
posted by birdherder at 3:30 PM on January 18, 2007


I believe these atrocities are actually called "grocer's apostrophes"
posted by bobobox at 3:30 PM on January 18, 2007


The Banterist frequently take's these on.
posted by knave at 3:31 PM on January 18, 2007


Oh, I see he was link'd. Sorry.
posted by knave at 3:33 PM on January 18, 2007


Apostrophe's.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2007


Not that these should not be confused with summary quotes.

I believe these atrocities are actually called "grocer's apostrophes"

Also "greengrocers' apostrophe".

Rest in portobellos, MiHail.
posted by cortex at 3:47 PM on January 18, 2007


My favorite of all time is on the Johnny Rocket's menu: "The" Double.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:12 PM on January 18, 2007


How did you miss the mighty Apostrophell, curmudgeonly grandfather of all grocers' apostrophe sites?
posted by jack_mo at 4:15 PM on January 18, 2007


This is putting me in the mood to start a blog championing the phrase "I couldn't care less".
posted by saffry at 4:18 PM on January 18, 2007


Wouldn't "ground beef" Pattie's refer to something belonging to "ground beef" Pattie? You have to wonder how Pattie got a nickname like that...
posted by uosuaq at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Here's an apostrophe-related quote I collected back in the early 90's:

It's is not, it isn't ain't, and it's it's, not its, if you mean it is.
If you don't, it's its. Then too, it's hers. It isn't her's. It isn't
our's either. It's ours, and likewise yours and theirs.

-- Oxford University Press, Edpress News
posted by Araucaria at 4:23 PM on January 18, 2007


Because they recognize all the other doubles, right Navelgazer? Uh, or maybe they just want you to think they pronounce it "Thee Double." God bless you all, it's like reading my curmudgeon menu.

Now if we could only get everyone to spell 'judgment' correctly.
posted by toma at 4:24 PM on January 18, 2007


toma :: Now if we could only get everyone to spell "judgment" correctly.

Right. I'm hitching onto that train.

DEFINITELY IS NOT SPELLED WITH AN "A"

KTHXBAI
posted by Shecky at 4:30 PM on January 18, 2007


Your funny! Like you're post alot. What I like are "mispelling's". Their literally all over the place. Especially on menu's. And collectible too.
posted by nickyskye at 4:30 PM on January 18, 2007


I like to think the British aluminium is just a mutation of a stray apostrophe in a tattered American sourcebook.
posted by cortex at 4:30 PM on January 18, 2007


DEFINITELY IS NOT SPELLED WITH AN "A"

Seriously. It's rediculous.
posted by cortex at 4:30 PM on January 18, 2007


Now if we could only get everyone to spell 'judgment' correctly.

Wow, that's a new one for me. Although Merriam Webster lists 'judgement' as a variant.
posted by knave at 4:33 PM on January 18, 2007


North Olmsted, Ohio, near where I live, is home to a store called Hobby's Etc. It's been around for 16 years, with the apostrophe on two different professionally produced plastic signs at two different locations.

But I just looked at their website making this post, and it's even better. It has a picture of their storefront, but also refers to the store as: "Hobby's Etc.", "Hobbys Etc.", and "Hobby Etc", and maybe something else I missed.
posted by pinespree at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2007


But not "Hobbies Etc.," pinespree? No, certainly not.

Also, the Te'sty Copy Editor's have lot's to 'say on the 'subject of apostrophe's.
posted by diddlegnome at 4:44 PM on January 18, 2007


VARIANT, mind you, moran
posted by gorgor_balabala at 4:46 PM on January 18, 2007


moran's
posted by gorgor_balabala at 4:50 PM on January 18, 2007


Eats, Shoots & Leaves
posted by caddis at 4:58 PM on January 18, 2007


All these "emphasized" words are giving me flashbacks to my days translating local TV news teleprompter scripts into "readable" news stories.
posted by emelenjr at 4:59 PM on January 18, 2007


The best ones are rendered in neon, like the glorious illuminated sign for the Dinning Room at a local restaurant.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2007


I am bursting into flames reading this thread. I'm clawing my monitor. THE PAIN!
posted by moonbird at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2007


Who gives a fuck? I mean really, are people somehow insulted when they see a stray apostrophe? How could anyone care about this?

If your main sense of accomplishment in life is proper punctuation, you're a lot more pathetic then the people making these mistakes (on average, obviously)
posted by delmoi at 5:25 PM on January 18, 2007


You should all heed the advice I saw on a sign in a Beijing cave:

No Spiting
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:25 PM on January 18, 2007


Hey! Delmoi doesn't care.





Don't get me started.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2007


There's a "gentlemans club" and "adult" "bookstore" that we pass on our yearly camping trip that's named either Passions or Passion's. I'm not sure which, and neither are the "billboard's."
posted by Foosnark at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2007


Oddly, my grandmother uses quotation marks around lots of weird stuff - for example, around "Happy Birthday" and "Merry Christmans". It always made me wonder if she was really being sincere, or secretly just hated us all.
posted by wandering steve at 5:46 PM on January 18, 2007


cortex : I like to think the British aluminium is just a mutation of a stray apostrophe in a tattered American sourcebook.

Actually, the metal was named by Sir Humphry Davy, an Englishman, who named it "aluminum" (by analogy with "platinum"), and while the US alone retains this original spelling, the rest of the world went along with the later transmogrification to "aluminium" (by analogy with "uranium").
posted by kcds at 5:47 PM on January 18, 2007


deth tu spelleeng!

noe seriusly      hyoomun beeeengs didd withowt fur almoest oll ov rikordid histry evenputtingspacesbetweenwordsinindoeuropeanlanguagesonlybeganinmedievaltimes      "John Donne could render the word "be" three different ways (bee, beest, be) on the same sheet of paper"            If someone spells words, or constructs a sentence, differently from what you're used to, it doesn't follow that the individual is dumb and/or out to smash apart the divine order. It's just words.
posted by Kattullus at 6:06 PM on January 18, 2007


Cheater. You spelled "href" correctly.
posted by cortex at 6:09 PM on January 18, 2007


And don't forget Apostrophe.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:23 PM on January 18, 2007


DEFINITELY IS NOT SPELLED WITH AN "A"

Maybe not in the dictionary in the liberry, but for all intensive purposes everyone spells it definatley.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:35 PM on January 18, 2007


What ROU_X said. I'd just assume we let that one go. Stop towing the line.
posted by cortex at 6:36 PM on January 18, 2007


There's a bakery chain in San Francisco called Specialty's. Every time I see their sign I want to pry off the apostrophe with a crowbar.

"Sincerely,"

kirkaracha
posted by kirkaracha at 6:44 PM on January 18, 2007


Plus, their online store is SpecialtysDirect. Where, oh where, did the apostrophe go?
And I see they've now got locations in Seattle and Chicago.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:47 PM on January 18, 2007


After reading ROU and cortex, I think we minus well give up.
posted by knave at 6:48 PM on January 18, 2007


They finally fixed it, but for years, there was a funeral home in north Austin called All Faith's. I don't know who Faith is, but she sure was proud of her funeral home.
posted by tippiedog at 6:56 PM on January 18, 2007


Two loyal regulars at a bar where I hang out were moving to a new country. To say thanks to the bar, they bought this huge brass bell that now hangs near the door. Anytime someone rings the bell it means that person is buying a round of drinks for everyone in the house.

To commemorate the bell, the bar paid for this beautiful wood and brass plaque that hangs on the wall next to it. The inscription reads "To Patty and Don Hughes, in memory of there loyal patronage."

I want to take a black permanent Sharpie to it.
posted by Brittanie at 7:07 PM on January 18, 2007


nickyskye: and collectible too

It might not be revelant at this point, but Websters allows both collectible and collectable, irregardless of what you might of heard.
posted by gubo at 7:16 PM on January 18, 2007


I got a copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves for Christmas, if apostrophe abuse makes you stabby you should pick it up.
posted by The Straightener at 7:19 PM on January 18, 2007


I still have trouble with this (after journalism school and several years as a pro writer) but I find mnemonics help me. I remember that it's is supposed to be a contraction and never possessive and definitely is a derivative of finite.

However, I am very glad Firefox now has built-in spell check. (For example, it doesn't recognize spellcheck as one word.)
posted by Brittanie at 7:31 PM on January 18, 2007


In a hundred year's, nobody will care about this "stuff."

You people are so "uptight."
posted by jason's_planet at 7:35 PM on January 18, 2007


This morning, I got a reply email from a friend of mine. My original message was quoted beneath her reply. I shuddered and then cringed when I saw the unforgivable apostrophe abuse I committed: "We need to buy the Weissman's a gift." I wrote that, and seeing it in black and white over my signature was absolutely harrowing. No more casting aspersion's on the mistake's of other's for me.
posted by kosem at 7:52 PM on January 18, 2007


Not to derail, but on the subject of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (which I read and enjoyed), an essential follow-up is Louis Menand's review in the New Yorker. It begins:

The first punctuation mistake in “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” (Gotham; $17.50), by Lynne Truss, a British writer, appears in the dedication, where a nonrestrictive clause is not preceded by a comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there. “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” presents itself as a call to arms, in a world spinning rapidly into subliteracy, by a hip yet unapologetic curmudgeon, a stickler for the rules of writing. But it’s hard to fend off the suspicion that the whole thing might be a hoax.

It makes for an interesting counterpoint.
posted by chinston at 8:05 PM on January 18, 2007


MetaFilter: I love her dearly, but I also want to bludgeon her.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:11 PM on January 18, 2007


I work as a graphic designer and the apostrophe thing comes up fairly often. My favorite was when I corrected an apostrophe in a tagline ... something like "Call the pros!" ... and the client made me put it back in because they had "pro's" on everything else, including their truck fleet.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:18 PM on January 18, 2007


Good lord, this thread is hard to read.
posted by pjern at 8:19 PM on January 18, 2007


"Y'all" are looser's.
posted by Wet Spot at 8:20 PM on January 18, 2007


Is this the thread where I complain about 'irregardless'?
posted by ninjew at 8:26 PM on January 18, 2007


Don't get me started with stupid grammar errors i.e.
to, two, too. Their, there, (Which I most recently experienced from a copy editor at work. Yikes!)
Witch, Which while I'm at it there is the famous who, whom and whose.
I on the other hand, like to confuse people by using "fat" as the past tense of fit. I get genuine double-takes on that one.

Please don't pick on my probable punctuation error(s) in the previous sentence.
posted by Gungho at 8:28 PM on January 18, 2007


Wet spot, shouldn't you have used the plural Y'alls? (Not to be confused with the possessive Y'all's.)
posted by Gungho at 8:31 PM on January 18, 2007


Come on, Gungho. The plural of y'alls is all y'alls.

And to those saying gedoverit, let me just have this one pet peeve, please. It makes me think my education was worth something.

Another personal favorite: orientate and its siblings.
posted by Brittanie at 8:39 PM on January 18, 2007


Nice post.

I never learned how to spell. I also tend to put in apostrophes in the wrong places. Generally, if I proofread what I wrote before I print it (or hit 'post'), I catch most of my errors, but some I don't. I get the sense that at this point, if I spent a year or so really drilling myself I would learn to spell correctly, but for me, spelling is a skill that does not come easily. It's funny, because I get irritated when something is difficult to read because of complex language, but I forgive my own terrible spelling. The worst part of having bad spelling instincts is that people assume you're stupid.

On the subject of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, I think the New Yorker panned it because she dares to question the punctuation in the New Yorker. The New Yorker spells coop with umlauts, so I think they could use a little ribbing on their punctuation.
posted by serazin at 8:40 PM on January 18, 2007


Wet spot, shouldn't you have used the plural Y'alls?

Give me a brake!
posted by Wet Spot at 8:40 PM on January 18, 2007


Why hello there, apostrophe. At first glance I thought this post was about you.
posted by anarcation at 8:50 PM on January 18, 2007


And we haven't even mentioned misuse of the comma, something which I find increasingly common and which is driving me "insane." Now, I admit that correct comma use may be a bit difficult, even an art, at least when it comes to the more arcane rules, but recent examples that I have seen defy common sense, even in publications and on websites that you think would know better. Recently, I saw a sign someone had put up that read in part "...will, no longer be tolerated." Why? Why? Why?

(Please don't tell me that I made any comma errors in the above paragraph).
posted by blue shadows at 9:09 PM on January 18, 2007


I "love" Metafilter, in fact, I literally, "love" it "so much," that I want to "cover" it in kisse's, and hug's.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:21 PM on January 18, 2007


The most egregious misuse of the quotation mark I have ever seen was when I was teaching preschool, which only serves to make it that much worse for all involved. (I also saw a lot of misspellings, especially on dinosaur week, and wanted to defenestrate myself when upon pointing them out, a coworker said to me "Who cares, it's not like the kids can read anyway." Sadly, I was on the first floor.)

The nurse at my center often had to write notes for parents to take home regarding their children's cough syrup, sunscreen, assorted boo-boos, etc. On each and every note, the child's name was contained within quotation marks. To me it always looked like she was implying that either a four year old isn't worthy of having his own name yet and she was merely including it as a formality, or that she was implying that perhaps this was not the child's real name, but a clever alias, perhaps chosen by the Witness Protection Program.

To the parents of "Schmoopy." Schmoopy needs to bring cough syrup to school so that he does not expel hearty lung butter on his classmates, who are trying to nap.

(Ok, I only wish the notes were that awesome.)

Anyway, the quotation mark thing always bothered me.

Even more than brontasaurus.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:59 PM on January 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


It seem's to me that, as time marches on, there are less and less people that know how to "write" correct.

People, can we please agree to get "less" and "fewer" right, as well as "that" and "who"?

It seems to me that, as time marches on, there are fewer and fewer people who know how to write correctly. Now, was that so hard?
posted by syzygy at 2:43 AM on January 19, 2007


On a separate note, the incorrect use of apostrophes here in Austria can be pretty funny. In German, one does not use apostrophe "s" to signify possession. Nevertheless, when Austrians try to add English to their signs, they often end up putting apostrophes all over the place. The worst I've seen is a nation wide chain of mini sports-betting / casino places, with probably hundreds of locations throughout Austria. Affixed to an external wall of each and every location is a large neon sign with only the word "Snack's".
posted by syzygy at 2:54 AM on January 19, 2007


Here in the mountains of NC, the plural form of y'all tends to be [I don't know how to spell this] you'ins, pronounced yuns.
posted by moonbird at 3:59 AM on January 19, 2007


Now, was that so hard?

Needs to go further.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:09 AM on January 19, 2007


polyglottery: in italian, plurals and possessives pose no problem, however, wherever possible, abuse is similarly rampant: e' for è, and (conversely) pò for po', and perchè for perché are the main culprits.
posted by progosk at 5:09 AM on January 19, 2007


I mean really, are people somehow insulted when they see a stray apostrophe?

Clearly there are. I don't understand it myself, but hey, griping about it keeps them off the streets and out of trouble.

Nice post.

By which you mean "Nice chance for everyone to bitch and moan about their favorite 'mistakes' for the thousandth time"?
posted by languagehat at 5:20 AM on January 19, 2007


You know who I hate? The weathered voice of reason.
posted by cortex at 6:22 AM on January 19, 2007


Misuse of "literally" is a silly thing to get worked up about. The word really should mean "word for word." So unless you're talking about transcribing text, you're already kinda misusing it.

There was a Slate article that got it right.
posted by meta_eli at 6:27 AM on January 19, 2007


I believe these atrocities are actually called "grocer's apostrophes"

I've always heard them called "scare quotes". Not to be confused with "air quotes" (*makes "bunny ears"*). Whoa. Too meta...

Re Lynne Truss... I liked "Eats Shoots and Leaves". But I can't help cringe a bit when I see the book. I think Lynne is missing the point of the joke. It's a joke you tell, not a joke you explain ("It was a poorly puncuated dictionary, get it?!?"). Must be the British humor thing...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:29 AM on January 19, 2007


I've always heard them called "scare quotes". Not to be confused with "air quotes".

There's a difference.

"Scare quotes" have legitimate uses. They are used to distance the author from the word or phrase, often because the author isn't sure that it's accurate.
(e.g. "Would you and your 'friend' stop having loud sex all night!")

"Grocer's apostrophes" are just plain wrong. And they can often be extra funny because the sign "Grade A 'Meat' $8.99/lb" could be interpreted to mean that the author isn't so sure that it's really meat they are selling...

Eli
posted by meta_eli at 6:49 AM on January 19, 2007


I've always heard them called "scare quotes".

I make a different distinction than meta_eli:

Scare quotes are double-quotes around a word or phrase, used correctly to emphasize some uncertainty or irony or neologistic usage:

- the 'hero' of the story
- my two-horse 'cadillac' carriage
- the 'microserfs' of Silicon Valley

Scare quotes can still be scare quotes used incorrectly, and these are the seemingly pointless quotations of words that are not intended as ironic or uncertain or whatever, hence the conflict:

- show your mom you 'love' her this Feb 14
- 'great' deals on used cars
- no 'smoking'

Grocers apostrophers are a different beast: generally, misapplied apostrophes in plural forms, as most commonly (or at least famously) observed in the signage of markets and other small retailers:

- green apple's, $1.49lb
posted by cortex at 7:02 AM on January 19, 2007


The infamous Lands' End apostrophe.
They blame "the printer."
Right.
posted by Floydd at 8:28 AM on January 19, 2007


Scanning this thread, I could see in my mind's eye a seeming horde of people making obnoxious "air quotes" motions at one another.

And I just saw myself doing it with "air quotes". Fuck.
posted by Merlyn at 9:15 AM on January 19, 2007


And I just saw myself doing it with "air quotes". Fuck.

Margo Magee approves!
posted by cortex at 9:35 AM on January 19, 2007


Killface: Why does it say "Welcome to you're 'Doom!'"? What does that even mean, and why, for God's sakes, is "Doom!" in quotes?

Valerie: I don't know.

Killface: Is this some sort of ironic doom? Is the wink implied?

Valerie: No, I don't know.

Killface:
No, it isn't. So please tell me how and why I'm suddenly a laughingstock!

Valerie: Uh...'cause you signed off on the proofs?

[Killface just taps the postcard on his thigh]
posted by banshee at 10:25 AM on January 19, 2007


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