Monday, 23 January 2012

Aberrant Apostrophe (aka Greengrocer's Apostrophe aka Little Flying Commas)

Those naughty greengrocer's.... erm, sorry, greengrocers

Thou whoreson apostrophe! Thou unnecessary punctuation!
[With apologies to Shakespeare]

Until his death in 2009, English novelist and newspaper columnist Keith Waterhouse fought a never-ending battle against the use of the aberrant apostrophe, spreading through common English usage like an outbreak of flu.

The usage consists of placing an apostrophe in a substantive noun or number with the aim of making it into a plural. Thus we see 1960's used to mean Nineteen Sixties, rather than the correct 1960s.

The use of this rough punctuation began among immigrant workers in Liverpool for whom English was an acquired language, and is also known as the greengrocer's apostrophe as it is often seen on fruit and vegetables e.g. Apple's, Pear's, Banana's.

As self appointed Life President of the Association for the Annihilation of the Aberrant Apostrophe (AAAA) Keith Waterhouse hated the usage and claimed to have had an apostrophe incinerator in his back garden. While another advocate of its abolition, Lynne Truss, wrote in her bestseller Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Book to Punctuation - 'If you still persist in writing "Good food at it's best", you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave'. 

Other annoying grammatical gaffs and howlers are the use of the replacement of the possessive pronoun your with the peripatetic apostrophe you're; and the confusion of its and it's, the first the possessive of it, the second the abbreviation of it is

And should it Charles' birthday or Charles's birthday?

Comments (or comment's if you're a greengrocer) welcome.

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