I can't help it, I'm feeling quite offended over the misuse and abuse of the poor pitiful apostrophe today. Why oh why do people believe that you form the
plural possessive of a word ending in S simply by attaching an apostrophe?
My husband is working with a recruiter on a document detailing his experience. I helped him write it. I wrote it correctly: “Mr. Harris's extensive experience blah blah..” The recruiter sent back an edited document (some of his edits were quite amazing, really, and I learned something about business writing just from reading the way he phrased some stuff) where he'd changed it to Mr. Harris'. Excuse me?
Would you say “Mr. Harris car”? Or is it “Mr. Harris's car”? Just say it aloud. Forget the apostrophe (which I did not attach at the end of the first Mr. Harris on purpose). I mean, puh-leeze! One makes no sense whatsoever. The other one denotes possession. It isn't that hard for pity's sake.
Who's robe is it? It's Jesus robe. Or is it Jesus's robe? Jones hat. Jones's hat. Which one sounds ridiculous when stated aloud and which one sounds correct?
Strunk and White are turning in their graves, I am sure. If that isn't enough, I see it in newspapers too. Major newspapers. Drives me crazy! I am offended for the poor pitiful apostrophe who can't speak up for itself.
Wasn't it Lynne Truss who envisioned an army of punctuation warriors gleefully correcting signs? Well enlist me in the cause. Someone must defend the dignity of the apostrophe.
What's your grammar peeve? I can stand almost anything, and really I am not nitpicky at all, but that apostrophe business drives me batty. Think I'll go sit cross-legged somewhere and say some ohms……
My daughter is driven nuts by lack of serial commas. 🙂
I’m confused: You start out by saying, “why do people believe that you form the plural of a word ending in S simply by attaching an apostrophe?”
I agree. You cannot make a word plural with an apostrophe. Those are for contractions and for indicating possession. Mark’s car didn’t sell for much after he shot it full of holes. That sort of thing.
You then go on to talk about possession, not plurality. Two different things, two different uses. Did you mean to say “possession” in your first paragraph?
On your second point, I beg to disagree. I have a stylebook here that allows for two methods for making a word ending in ‘s’ possessive. The first is to simply place an apostrophe at the end. The second is to use both and apostrophe and another ‘s’. Both are listed as correct.
I was also taught to just use the apostrophe from grade school all the way through seminary. Please believe me when I say there were some very strict guardians of the English language along the way. I know I’m not a great writer and make lots of mistakes (you’ve edited my work, so you know!), but on this point I have never been corrected.
I’ve also done a web search and found the same on other sites’ pages as well (sorry, couldn’t resist).
So while I respect your right to be peeved by this one, I must humbly add that Mrs. Harris’ peeve is concerns something that is condoned by at least some grammatical authorities.
To answer your question, I start twitching when people misuse common words. Take “your” and “you’re,” for example. There was a bus back in Pennsylvania that was proudly painted with advertisements for a local car dealer. Right on the main door to the bus were the words: “Your number one with us.” I always wondered, “my what is number one with you? My money?”
Yes, Mark, you are correct. I meant possessive, not plural. I was ranting so quickly I didn’t catch that. 🙂
I know what your books say, dear. I know what they have said for quite some time now, but it’s like the serial comma Terry is talking about. As language evolves, and text messaging becomes the order of the day, traditional, correct grammar gets reinterpreted. Yes, there are sources that tell you that Mrs. Harris’ peeve is correct. I disagree (speak it aloud just like it reads).
Read Strunk and White. I’m not saying this isn’t interpreted as correct usage (obviously some newspapers are using it). I am objecting to the simplification, for want of a better word, of a traditional grammar rule.
Mrs. Harris’s peeve is about the incorrect use of the apostrophe to indicate possession.
The Harrises are going to a boat show tomorrow, which Mrs. Harris is not thrilled about.
The Harrises’ car has a dent in the door which is driving Mrs. Harris crazy as well. 🙂
These are correct uses of possession (with a plural thrown in) as Mrs. Harris was taught in the good old days. They are still true today, even though other uses are accepted in some places. Mrs. Harris does not agree, typically, with those other uses and thinks it’s a sad commentary on the state of education that these uses are allowed to continue.
OTOH, Mrs. Harris surely slaughters some grammar rule she is unaware of, or misunderstands completely, which no doubt irritates someone out there. 🙂
sites’ pages is correct, btw. It’s plural possessive. 🙂
I’ve seen that your/you’re thing on signs here in Alabama too.
Now, get back to sermonizing about the things you are supposed to be sermonizing about. 🙂
Mark J ~
My minor in college was advertising. I learned that many adverts are misspelled and use incorrect grammer deliberately to catch attention. I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now – cheap, cheap way to get attention and doesn’t work with me.
I’m so excited! Just received my back copy blurb for PERFIDIA, a thriller set inside the Third Reich, due out in September. Former title was Blood Moon Over Berlin.
Please go to my blog to read it!
Oh, really, Morag? Interesting about the purposefully misspelling, etc.
And congrats on getting your blurb!!! When’s it coming out?
Thank you, Lynn! Release date is September.
Mind you, the book on grammar I’m looking at dates back to my college days. 17 years ago. LONG before text messages and chat. 🙂
I also just noticed that the Starbucks coffee mug I’m drinking from has words inside. The ouside says “WASHINGTON D.C.” and has pictures from that city. Inside… “THE NATIONS CAPITAL.”
Apparently even Strunk & White admit to leaving off the s can sometimes be a correct form. From p. 1 of Elements of Style, Third Edition:
1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding ‘s.
… Exceptions are the possesives of ancient proper names ending in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus’, and such forms as for conscience’ sake, for righteousness’ sake. But such forms as Moses’ Laws, Isis’ temple are commonly replaced by
the laws of Moses
the temple of Isis
Nations, nation’s, nations’. Tomato, tomatoe, let’s call the whole thing off. 🙂 Starbucks needs editing. Or, as Morag stated, it’s a marketing ploy. 🙂
Amazing how the grammar thing brings out the seminarians, isn’t it? Whatever S&W say is correct, as I stated before. Mine is in storage in CA. I am in AL.
And yet I’m not usually in need of it to know that it’s Mr. Harris’s experience as opposed to Mr. Harris’ experience, which is what I said in the first place. Go figure.
I much prefer the laws of Moses to Moses’ laws. I’d pretty much need to write Moses’s laws anyway. I wouldn’t feel right otherwise, though I bow to S&W regardless. They were the masters. They did, however, say sometimes. Mr. Harris is not an exception to the rule.
Now go forth and offend good grammar in peace and love. 🙂
Aren’t they really God’s laws? 😉
My biggest grammatical pet peeve with an apostrophe is its erroneous use in an attempt to make something plurals:
ex. I was looking at picture’s.
The only exception to the rule about never using an apostrophe to make something plural is if you’re using an abbreviation with only lower case letters:
ex. Mind your p’s and q’s.
If the abbreviation is made up of upper case letters, you shouldn’t use the apostrophe:
ex. A squadron of B-52s.
And I also prefer the “‘s” for making names ending in -is or -es plural.
Absolutely, Patrick! I agree with you. But I’m not a purist if it’s confusing, like I got all As on my classwork — sometimes I’ll write that as A’s, even though I know it’s wrong. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!