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Errin' USA
May 21, 2008 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Immediately, Herson spotted an offense—a second-floor awning outside a tarot shop that advertised "Energy Stone's." They climbed the stairs to the second floor and approached a middle-age women with a quizzical expression. "We happened to notice the sign for energy stones," Deck said, "and there happens to be an extra apostrophe. 'Stone's' doesn't need the apostrophe."

"And?" she asked, her voice flat with annoyance.

"And we wanted to bring it to your attention," Deck said.


A look inside the daring lives of Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, vanguards of the Typo Eradication Advancement League.
posted by Rhaomi (84 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Apostrophe Abuse
posted by blue_beetle at 9:59 PM on May 21, 2008


I would have so enjoyed this ten years ago. These days, I dunno -- I'd rather hang out with evil rotten mis-spellers and their ilk than bunched-panty grammar nazis.

(But if we wanna get persnickety, "typo" isn't the right word for the phenomenon of which they speak.)
posted by loiseau at 10:03 PM on May 21, 2008


HOLE N" THE ROCK

Mid-K Beauty Supply is Remode Ling
posted by Tube at 10:04 PM on May 21, 2008


I think what drives me craziest is apostrophes in what are intended to be plurals. For some reason, it's more excusable to me that someone would forget to put an apostrophe in a possessive. If I'm reading something quickly, sometimes I don't notice and it reads fine because the context is obvious. To put an apostrophe where there shouldn't be one takes more effort, though. It also sticks out to me, even if I'm reading quickly.
posted by Nattie at 10:05 PM on May 21, 2008


To perskriptivist, and not deescriptivistic enough. I ca'n put them where I wan't. Language evolvenates. Don't tread on mee man!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:07 PM on May 21, 2008


Godspeed, gentlemen. You may not be remembered, but if there is any justice in this universe, somehow what you do will benefit all of humanity.
posted by chimaera at 10:12 PM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


My college went on a trip to New York City for a weekend to visit one of the print house and while they were there they took about 150 pictures of misspelled signs or grammar mistakes. It still amazes me when people misspell the littlest things, although I fall victim to it quite often which makes me upset.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:20 PM on May 21, 2008


Someone needs to do a grammar Nazi version of the Downfall subtitling.
posted by Artw at 10:28 PM on May 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Can one of these guys edit e-mails from my boss before I get them?
posted by TrialByMedia at 10:29 PM on May 21, 2008


It's wish fulfillment of a wish I want to stop wishing for.

Proper punctuation, I can't quit you.
posted by GuyZero at 10:30 PM on May 21, 2008


A perfect opportunity for a student with a can of red spray paint. (from blue beetle's link)
posted by alexei at 10:31 PM on May 21, 2008


Maybe they could travel the world and talk about why the possessive pronoun "its" does not have an apostrophe.
posted by Brian B. at 10:34 PM on May 21, 2008


"a middle age women"???

WTF Tribune?
posted by turducken at 10:43 PM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm going to file these guys under Metallica and dinosaurs.

What's so great about preserving the English spelling system anyways? Especially considering the unfortunate event of English spelling having undergone standardization just BEFORE the greatest sound change in its history. If we allow typos to happen, we might actually end up with new conventions that make sense and keep up with the changin' times.

I personally find fresh new interpretations most welcome. Here's a few I've started "messing up" already...
though, through, tough ... tho, thru, tuff

And some others where I would welcome typo-correction (since we're getting all prescriptivisty)!
cheat, great, sweat
caught, sought, ought

Have a feeld day! Go nutz!
posted by iamkimiam at 10:45 PM on May 21, 2008


Also, you're selling energy stones. Say that out loud a few times. Just thought you should know. But, really, the punctuation thing is really what's wrong here ...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:47 PM on May 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's very hard to resist mentioning how I shouldn't have used the word "really" twice in a sentence. Where's my sharpie?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:50 PM on May 21, 2008


BrianB:
Maybe they could travel the world and talk about why the possessive pronoun "its" does not have an apostrophe.

*clears throat, sings*

o/~ "Oh, if you want it to be possessive it's just 'its,' but if it's supposed to be a contraction then it's I-T apostrophe S!

...

scalawag."
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:11 PM on May 21, 2008


This is pure XKCD fodder.
posted by Ryvar at 11:21 PM on May 21, 2008


What a bunch of twats.
posted by caddis at 11:25 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


What a bunch of twat's.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:36 AM on May 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


Kraftmatic beat me by mere seconds. Damn.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:37 AM on May 22, 2008


second's. please.
posted by TrialByMedia at 2:18 AM on May 22, 2008


There has to be a difference between descriptivism and "anything goes".
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:22 AM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


It all go's.
posted by Wolof at 2:35 AM on May 22, 2008


I get as irritated by misspelled signs as the next person, I guess (but only when it's a big money operation -- I find ultra-local, often hand-painted misspellings to be more cute colloquialisms, rather than irritating), but I find people like those guys to be insufferable pedants and much more irritating than the occasional error. Of all the things in this world worth worrying about, "energy stone's" just doesn't seem worth the effort. If they came into my life to lecture me about some minor misspelling, I would hope that I would have the restraint of the guy who sent them packing. Something about their project really rubbed me the wrong way -- I'm not sure if it was the desire for a book deal, (I mean, at least have the honesty and gumption to either do the project whole-heartedly, or just write the damn book already) or just that 99% of what they are doing is lecturing people with little formal education about trivialities, but yeah, I'm not a fan.

The real damage to language, to my eyes, is done with creations like "Homeland Security" and "Axis of Evil" -- formulations that are fundamentally dishonest and yet have real power. There are bureaucratic signs and brochures everywhere that are far more brutalizing to our everyday language than a misplaced apostrophe or two.
posted by Forktine at 2:46 AM on May 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


For some reason, it's more excusable to me that someone would forget to put an apostrophe in a possessive.

Maybe it's because the USGS and USPS don't use them in place names (Martha's Vineyard is the only exception I know of.) So when I buy my own island and name it Kirth's Retreat, they'll promptly rename it Kirths (if they even notice; they'll probably just keep calling it Manhattan.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:50 AM on May 22, 2008


These guys are my personal heroes.
The Shatners of the Chattering Classes.
posted by Dizzy at 2:57 AM on May 22, 2008


This is rather apropos, or should I say apostropos? (I shouldn't? Oh, ok). Just yesterday afternoon I saw this sign on Charing Cross Road in London of all places - the grammarest street in the very birthplace of the English language. Here somebody, perhaps these gentlemen, or Lynn Truss herself, has taken the trouble to circle the offending punctuant with a magic marker.
But they chose to ignore the dodgy capitalization of 'Available' for some reason.
posted by Flashman at 3:05 AM on May 22, 2008


I noticed they're interested in a book deal, presumably about their road trip 'cause I think the grammar guide thing has been done a couple of times (at least that I'm aware, probably more).

Lynne Truss wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation where she mentioned correcting signs and leading street demonstrations against bad punctuation, but only in The UK I believe. A good read in any case.

But not to be confused with Antal Parody's Eats, Shites & Leaves: Crap English and How to Use It which I still haven't managed to read yet, but promises to be just as entertaining.
posted by Mutant at 4:15 AM on May 22, 2008


I'd rather hang out with evil rotten mis-spellers and their ilk than bunched-panty grammar nazis.

Well, loiseau, I'm one of these 'grammar nazis,' and I must tell you that when I and my henchmen come to power I'm afraid you and your ilk will be rounded up swiftly and given a choice: repent or die. Now, I am a reasonable man, and I realize that the strength and robustness of the English language is its capacity to evolve with use. Sorry, would you be happier if I had said "it's capacity to evolve"? That seems more normal, doesn't it?

Why do you smirk? ASSUME THE POSITION!

Now, as I said, I'm a reasonable man, despite my prominent position in the soon-to-be-ruling Nazi Grammar Party. You know what? (This will amaze you; it's kind of like my uncle Adolf admitting a tender regard for fluffy little yellow ducklings.) I can even tolerate "I could care less." Why? Because even though it makes no logical sense, everyone knows what you mean. The thing, however, is that nothing that blunts the capacity of the English language to convey ideas precisely should be accepted.

"I listened to him, and he was, like, inferring that anyone who didn't like, study the dictionary was some kind of moran." You see, confusing "imply" and "infer" is like confusing "buy" and "sell." If I came to you and said "Hey, I've got this great car I'd like to buy to you, you've never seen anything like it but it's in the truck, would you like to sell it from me?" you'd think I was crazy. So why am I, Grammar Fuhrer, not allowed to point out the error of confusing "imply" with "infer"? Answer: any moron buys and sells, and so will insist on the distinction between those words for practical purposes. Few people influence others, or are influenced by, rhetoric beyond its most basic form, so they not only confuse the terms describing it, but ridicule those who insist on maintaining the distinction. Loiseau, do you really want to align yourself with those mouth breathers with your Godwinish name-calling?

I suspect not. Here's the deal: say or write something incorrectly (as I do frequently) and please allow those who know the difference to correct you. Accept the correction, and proceed to try to adopt it and mend your ways with my blessing.

Ignore it and ridicule us, your betters, and pick your place on the wall against which you will undoubtedly soon find yourself. And then spare me the piteous mewling that you were never warned.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 4:16 AM on May 22, 2008 [16 favorites]


My personal fave is unnecessary quotation marks. "Fresh" Pies Baked Daily.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 4:55 AM on May 22, 2008


These guys is my newest hero's!
posted by educatedslacker at 5:02 AM on May 22, 2008


Fuck these people. What a bunch of pretentious self-absorbed pricks.

Hey People Who Are Perturbed By Poor Grammar And Spelling: The people who can't spell and don't give a fuck are increasing exponentially while you are not. Get used to it.
posted by dozo at 5:51 AM on May 22, 2008


Part of me wants to say that people aren't any less well-educated about punctuation than ever, and that everyone simply has better access to typography software and printers.

On the other hand, old hand-made signs didn't have these errors (at least outside of British greengrocers) wherein people displayed the thought process: "If it ends with an S, I should add an apostrophe before it just to be safe."
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:22 AM on May 22, 2008


Dozo: does that mean we should also start studying Intelligent Design?
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:22 AM on May 22, 2008


While I don't agree with dozo, it's a stretch to compare changing grammatical standards to scientific theory.
posted by Pants! at 6:26 AM on May 22, 2008


I get as irritated by misspelled signs as the next person, I guess (but only when it's a big money operation...

I wish I could remember the details now, but there was a really glaring error in something printed on-screen--possibly a magazine or newspaper cover--in the recent Iron Man movie. How many millions of dollars did the movie cost, again?

If anyone's got a, um, legitimate and legal digital copy, you might want to scan through to the spinning magazine covers after Tony's welcome-home press conference. Assuming I didn't just misread something.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:34 AM on May 22, 2008


There was a business near my workplace called "Party Pro's." Drove me nuts until they updated with a new sign that said, "Party Pros". I had a fantasy about walking in there and asking, "Party Pro's what? What belongs to the Party Pro?"
posted by wastelands at 6:34 AM on May 22, 2008


This seems particularly relevant here....
posted by greenmagnet at 6:49 AM on May 22, 2008


Well, put me up against the wall and shoot me first when the revolution comes, because death would be preferable to living in a world full of assholes who insist that it doesn't matter if people use apostrophes where they shouldn't (e.g. plural's) and can't fucking tell the difference between its and it's. It especially drives me crazy here on MetaFilter, where the people who will slit the throat (metaphorically speaking) of anyone who misuses "begs the question" either don't know or don't care about the correct use of its/it's.

We've all got our inner pedant about something. If yours gets to come out to play, so does mine.
posted by rtha at 6:54 AM on May 22, 2008


I'm on the fence.
I am loathe to correct another person; I was taught that it was unkind.
Yet I am annoyed by sloppy punctuation; it signals sloppiness of thought.
That is why I so gleefully enjoy when others do it.
Conflicted I am.
posted by Dizzy at 6:59 AM on May 22, 2008


I lost any respect for them when I saw the one where they fixed a punctuation error, but completely missed the actual "typo" (misspelling of San Francisco).
posted by yhbc at 7:08 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


a world full of assholes who insist that it doesn't matter if people use apostrophes where they shouldn't (e.g. plural's) and can't fucking tell the difference between its and it's.

I don't know of a logical reason for having a written difference between its and it's, and I'm willing to entertain the notion that grammarians are carrying forward a glaring error and are getting away with it. Anyone?
posted by Brian B. at 7:18 AM on May 22, 2008


Because it serves to differentiate between the two forms in ambiguous situations? Because all contractions use an apostrophe?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:26 AM on May 22, 2008


I am loathe to correct another person

It would be more correct to say that you are "loath to correct another person."
posted by Kwantsar at 7:26 AM on May 22, 2008


People like this need to step back and take a hard look at how and why their life has run off the tracks and gotten so hopelessly fucked up.
posted by Ragma at 7:27 AM on May 22, 2008


Kwan-- I understand loath to mean "unwilling", as opposed to loathe ("to hate intensely").
But I thank you for the correction.
I think.
posted by Dizzy at 7:39 AM on May 22, 2008


"My personal fave is unnecessary quotation marks. 'Fresh' Pies Baked Daily."

I guess that's better than Fresh "Pies" Baked Daily.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:40 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


wasteland: Sorry, but "Party Pro's" is correct. In this case, the apostrophe is used to show that the word is abbreviated.

/runs and hides
posted by mr. strange at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2008


Well, put me up against the wall and shoot me first when the revolution comes, because death would be preferable to living in a world full of assholes who insist...

Don't need to read any more; thank you for volunteering, rtha! The party secretary in charge of grammatic cleansing has placed you first on the list! Would you like to now volunteer the names of any fellow conspirators?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:06 AM on May 22, 2008


Oops! Sorry, rtha, should have read further. I realize now that you're one of us. Your name has been erased from the book.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2008


I'm starting to appreciate decorative apostrophes, misspellings, and bad grammar. It's almost always a first sign of willful ignorance. Which helps me avoid problematic people at work and in hiring.

And I've finally moved from the prescriptivist camp ("You're doing it wrong! It's supposed to be used this way.") to the descriptivist camp ("Holy fuck you're a moron! By all means, full speed ahead.")
posted by lothar at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


While this annoys me and I want to applaud these twats and their mission...

The more I type in this language the more I recognize two things: fingers don't always type what brain thinks and the apostrophe in contractions should simply be omitted.

This comes out in times when I type "then" when I'm clearly thinking "than" - that one seems to be evolving very quickly out of the language. Also, though, thanks to the advent of tiny-little-keyboads on phones and other devices it's becoming a waste of effort to find the ' if it's not provided for you automatically.

Not ambiguous: cant/can't, youre/you're, isnt/isn't, dont/don't, arent/aren't, theyre/they're, hes/he's, shes/she's

Ambiguous with seldom-used vocabulary:
wont/won't

Ambiguous structurally:
its/it's, were/we're

The ambiguous ones are the rarest case and when they can't be determined by context I think following a new paradigm of "contractions dont get apostrophes" so that it's actually is the posessive of "it" would be steps in the right direction.

Of course, logic ain't language, so chances are just as good well start plurlizng w ;s next.


Fun story: I was visiting a Moscow school and they were learning English contractions. They were dutifully repeating "didn't, aren't, amn't..."

"Amn't?" I asked. "I don't think that's quite right..."

The teacher picked up her textbook and showed me with some disdain that I was clearly an idiot since printed right there in their Russian-published English Textbook was "amn't - am not".

The book, as you'd expect, defeated the native speaker. Someday I expect to hear a slavic-accented "amn't" somewhere allowing me to pull out my one Hengry Higginsism to declare their linguistic history as that particular era of the Russian school system.
posted by abulafa at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2008


I don't know of a logical reason for having a written difference between its and it's...

"It's" is a contraction of "it is." The apostrophe is a placeholder for the "i" in "is."

It's going to rain = It is going to rain.

"Its" is a possessive. I can understand the confusion, I guess, since other forms of the possessive do take an apostrophe, e.g. "That is John's book." But you would say, of John's book, "Its thesis is that proper grammar is important"? Why would you put an apostrophe there? An apostrophe would mean that the sentence would read "It is thesis is that proper grammar is important." That makes no sense.

I didn't learn this stuff in English class. In fact, I think I got a C in the grammar unit of my freshman year (high school) English class, because I seem to have some block that keeps me from remembering the names of parts of speech. I'm pretty sure that I still couldn't formally parse a sentence to save my life (and yet, I've been an editor for 15 years!). I learned this stuff because my mother would not let me read anything that was badly written, or had shitty grammar. It's why I know the difference between it's and its; it's how I learned to properly use lay and lie.

It's contagious: seeing things written properly, reading well-written material, means (for most people) that you absorb these rules at a very basic, intuitive level. The opposite is also true: I have caught myself using the grocer's apostrophe because it's so prevalent now, and I have been "contaminated."

If you want to be all e. e. cummings or James Joyce or Gertrude Stein with language, well, get on with your bad self. But they knew the rules to begin with, and broke them in ways that actually allowed them to communicate new ideas in new ways. That's quite different from breaking them because you don't know any better, or because you don't care, or because you're too lazy to look it up.

all uses of "you" in the preceding paragraphs are to be taken as "people in general,", and are not aimed at any particular person or persons in this thread.
posted by rtha at 8:23 AM on May 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


"We have not yet encountered fisticuffs," Herson said. But it's always a possibility.

I would point out that this is serious fedora territory, but this is unnecessary, as the dude is helpfull wearing a fedora in the accompanying photo.

They don't smirk. But you detect one anyway, studiously smothered.

So, they're insufferable self-important assholes. But polite. Great.
posted by desuetude at 9:00 AM on May 22, 2008


Helpfully. (Dude probably stole my 'y' on purpose.)
posted by desuetude at 9:00 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, a lot of pedantic asshats in this thread. Po-faced grammar flames are the nerd equivalent of wedgies, only more pathetic. "Your betters"? "Willful ignorance"? Seriously? Just fuck off. (I challenge you to go through my comments and find an apostrophe or spelling error. If you can't find any, does that make me your Nerd King?)
posted by nasreddin at 9:24 AM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Its thesis is that proper grammar is important"? Why would you put an apostrophe there? An apostrophe would mean that the sentence would read "It is thesis is that proper grammar is important." That makes no sense.

No, no more than "John's thesis states that proper grammar is hard" would read "John is thesis..."

Logically, the possessive of "it" should be "it's." That it is not so is one of those myriads of inconsistencies in modern English. Perhaps it will eventually disappear, but I won't hold my breath for that to happen -- English is a language with a strong tolerance for inconsistencies and variations, and the possessive of "it" is pretty far down on the list of oddities in English.

Not ambiguous: cant/can't, youre/you're, isnt/isn't, dont/don't, arent/aren't, theyre/they're, hes/he's, shes/she's

In context, those aren't very ambiguous (which is why we can decipher text messages and the like), but I'm sure that someone could think of a situation where we would want to distinguish "cant" and "can't", or distinguish between the contraction "she's" and the plural "shes." We use a lot of redundancy in English, which helps a lot when talking with people who's command of the language is imperfect. It's more correct to say "She's going to the store," but we would all more or less understand someone who said "She going to store." However, that second sentence does allow for some misreadings -- is it she is going to go to the grocery store, or she is going to put her root vegetables in the cold storage; is it she is going or she was going; etc. Those ambiguities are mostly resolved with context, but the redundancies eliminate a lot of potential confusions.
posted by Forktine at 9:25 AM on May 22, 2008


Specialty's

"Its" is more like "his" and "hers," which also don't take an apostrophe.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:30 AM on May 22, 2008


Is this the place where I can admit how many times I've made myself into a blithering asshole over Gardasil's "One Less" ads?
posted by lauranesson at 9:55 AM on May 22, 2008


Wow, a lot of pedantic asshats in this thread.

Congratulations, nasreddin. You have earned yourself a place of honour in the postrevolutionary Festival of Correction. I will personally 'stone' you with volumes A to F of the complete Oxford English Dictionary.

(I'm jealous: What a way to die!)
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:08 AM on May 22, 2008


Congratulations, nasreddin. You have earned yourself a place of honour in the postrevolutionary Festival of Correction. I will personally 'stone' you with volumes A to F of the complete Oxford English Dictionary.

Viva el revolusion!
posted by nasreddin at 10:14 AM on May 22, 2008


PIN number. It's everywhere.
posted by billypilgrim at 10:18 AM on May 22, 2008


Is this the place where I can admit how many times I've made myself into a blithering asshole over Gardasil's "One Less" ads?

Welcome to the party, lauranesson, you'll fit right in. In fact (maybe I'm being a little impulsive here), you will be made the Minister of Insistence on "Fewer." With all the power that will entail.

Which is a lot, and scary. I hope you are up to it. I know you will be. Do you have any problems with stoning?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:28 AM on May 22, 2008


If these guys ever read the CNN ticker, their heads is gonna 'splode.

Not a day goes by that they don't do dumb shit like, "HE IS 55-YEARS-OLD," or, "THE HAIL STORM EFFECTED TWO-THOUSAND HOUSE HOLDS."
posted by Sys Rq at 10:33 AM on May 22, 2008


Eh, Turtles, your sarcasm falls flat: I've already fully admitted the assholery involved in my behavior on the old "fewer" front.

It's probably just that they rub it in so hard with the double-dutch chanting at the end.
posted by lauranesson at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2008


Sorry, lauranesson, this is a case of meta-ironic-mefilterian rhetoric failing. I'm entirely on your side. I discover now that I appear to be developing a meme here where we grammar nazis start a movement where we are actually proud of our inclinations.

I think we of like minds are falling over ourselves to try to appear "normal" and are anticipating attacks at every turn. I suggest we start a website to promote the cause. I note that someone is sitting on "grammarnazi.com", which is unfortunate. Anyone interested in finding alternatives?

MeTa

posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:54 AM on May 22, 2008


"Amn't?" I asked. "I don't think that's quite right..."

I have heard this spoken by native English speakers many times. I think they were all born Brits, may have been some South African born British as well. I kind of like it. I'm not sure if abulafa was saying it's wrong. It isn't though - quaint, sure.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:45 AM on May 22, 2008


"Amn't?"

I also seem to have read this as vernacular usage in period novels. I wonder if it is archaic, rather than incorrect.

I'm sure my buddy languagehat can educate me.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:50 AM on May 22, 2008


Whoa, sorry, Turtle. I see what you're doing there.
posted by lauranesson at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2008


And I seem to feel your name should be ever more abbreviated. Whoops again.
posted by lauranesson at 11:54 AM on May 22, 2008


I was, in fact, claiming it was incorrect but I stand instead corrected.

In a vain hope of still squeezing some rightness out of my reaction, however, teaching that particular contraction in an elementary English class seems akin to tossing in some Syrian Arabic colloquialisms in an MSA class. Informative but best differentiated from common usage.
posted by abulafa at 1:15 PM on May 22, 2008


This post is so yesteryears news. And these guys are loosers.
posted by valentinepig at 1:16 PM on May 22, 2008


Suddenly, hearing the current conversation, blurts out: ain't.

Goes back into drive-by comementor stupor.
posted by valentinepig at 1:20 PM on May 22, 2008


There has to be a difference between descriptivism and "anything goes".

If there's a difference between science and engineering, yes. When I as a (student) linguist document how people really do talk, I have no business imposing pseudo-moral judgements on it. On the other hand, when I am writing or speaking I have to judiciously attend to observing some conventions, so that I can put my meaning across, or so that I will be taken seriously, or what have you. One task is descriptive/scientific and the other is creative/engineering, and they require different stances of me. Taking an all-or-nothing position, whether anarcho-descriptivist or prescripto-fascist, is a cute sort of I'm-so-sophisticated posturing, but in the end I really don't think it's useful.

Compare: If you're studying gravity, structural geometry, and material strength, then you just study what is, with no room for good and bad; but if you're designing a building and you want it to stay up, you need to recognize that there are better and worse ways to accomplish that. Same subject matter, different goals, different stances.

Personally, I suspect that rigidly standardized spelling has had a nice run but is nearing the end thereof. We're going to start seeing some flexibility emerge—systematic flexibility perhaps, but flexibility nonetheless. But its/it's and were/we're still get up my nose, in a way that 'relevent' and 'miniscule' and even 'nucular' do not.
posted by eritain at 2:12 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Logically, the possessive of "it" should be "it's." That it is not so is one of those myriads of inconsistencies in modern English.

What????? No!

"His," not "hi's."

"Hers," not "her's."

And "its," not "it's."

You know, all consistent-like and stuff.
posted by kindall at 2:41 PM on May 22, 2008


Someone should take these guys to Border's and show them all of the copies of Finnegans Wake. Instant nervous breakdown?
posted by naju at 4:12 PM on May 22, 2008


"His," not "hi's."

"Hers," not "her's."

And "its," not "it's."


Hers is already in a form that cannot be confused for a contraction. Moreover, his and hers is not regular as a pair. We don't say, "She was riding hers bike." But we say, "He was riding his bike." Neither can our's be confused for a contraction where none exists. Their's is likewise "wrong" even though it cannot be confused for a contraction in print, in part because it is already spelled differently than there's. Who and whose is even more irregular, but who's is "wrong" as a possessive. Are these "wrong" examples ever confused for a contraction in print, or just said to be? "Who's dog is this?" It can't be any plainer, and remembering to use whose just introduces an extra word, and an irregularity, and lends itself to confusion and correction.

The general problem is one of consistency as a wider rule, not as a sub-rule. If one is using apostrophes to be possessive generally, it should be consistent as a rule where spoken. There is no distinction between the sounds when spoken, so the argument that they clarify something is not consistent because typos are generated by the confusion of memorizing the different spellings for same sounds, and yet the brain accepts either form regardless knowing they might be typos (only to hear complaints about the mistakes from grammarians who can't or don't justify the rule's exception in the first place). I'm willing to say that the "mistakes" exist because they go against the internal logic in the first place.
posted by Brian B. at 5:00 PM on May 22, 2008


PIN number. It's everywhere.

Every day I show up for work I put my CAC card in the card reader, then enter my PIN number. So my common access card card must be in the reader before I enter my personal identification number number.
posted by fixedgear at 5:55 PM on May 22, 2008


You don't have to "memorize different spellings for the same sounds." First you think of the word you want, then you think of how it is spelled (if you are writing) or how it is pronounced (if you are speaking). You don't think of how a word is pronounced and try to derive the spelling from that! If you did it that way, you'd make all kinds of mistakes.
posted by kindall at 6:00 PM on May 22, 2008


They should correct the Allman Brothers Band, which has needed an apostrophe since 1971.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:30 PM on May 22, 2008


My personal fave is unnecessary quotation marks. "Fresh" Pies Baked Daily.

Sometimes the entire text of the sign is bracketed by double quotes. Generally these are trivial little bureaucratic signs like "No smoking" or "No loitering, City Ord. 678.9". It's such an odd, peculiar mistake, but I see it a dozen times a day in San Francisco.

My theory is that non-English speaking immigrants, small business owners in particular, are creating these awkward signs in observance of various local laws. Laws that might look something like this:
Muni. Code 123.4.5(a) A sign marked "No Smoking" must be posted in the dining area.
posted by ryanrs at 2:25 AM on May 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


They should correct the Allman Brothers Band, which has needed an apostrophe since 1971.

Depends on whether the band was owned by the brothers, or like the Chambers Brothers, just named after them.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:35 AM on May 23, 2008


My theory is that non-English speaking immigrants, small business owners in particular, are creating these awkward signs in observance of various local laws.

No, they're being used for emphasis. It's an old, old tradition, especially in rural areas.
posted by nasreddin at 3:29 AM on May 23, 2008


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