That Pesky Apostrophe

Yes.  I’m back on this subject again.  The apostrophe is the most misused piece of punctuation in the English language.

Mothers Day got me back on this topic.  I noticed that most people bother with the apostrophe when writing:

Actually, shouldn’t it be: Happy Mothers’ Day?

After all, we’re allowing more than one mom to enjoy the day, right?

But, nobody writes it that way.  In fact, the holiday is listed in Wikipedia as “Mother’s Day.”

I realized that I was swimming upstream against the current during last year’s Veterans’ Veterans Day.

For the past two years, I have chaired a committee with the cumbersome title of Committee on Veterans’ & Service-members’ Legal Issues.  In that case, we made sure that everyone put the apostrophes in the proper place — at the end.

I’m not willing to go to the barricades over this holiday.  I’m simply going to write it as Mothers Day.

In so doing, I’m following the lead of our local supermarket chain, Wegmans.  The Wegman family decided to leave off the apostrophe (at least, I hope that was a conscious decision on their part).  The Macy family apparently decided to go the other way.

I’m still scanning menus and ads for misuse of the poor, misunderstood apostrophe.  I love Italian restaurants.  There it’s possible to witness abuse in two languages:

Spaghetti — Ravioli’s — Salads — Entree’s — Steaks

I don’t understand how you can use the apostrophe correctly in one place on the menu, and then totally blow it a few lines later.  Oh well, I guess some business owners employ the “hit or miss” school of grammar.  You’ll probably get it right sometimes that way.  Besides, it’s much easier than running it by someone who knows how to properly punctuate.

Somehow, the following bogus rule still exists in many people’s heads → If you’re seeking to make plural a word ending in a vowel, you must use the apostrophe.  It’s nonsense.

The one use of the apostrophe that still baffles me is the sign out in front of a residence announcing the family’s name.  It sometimes  reads: “The Johnson’s

I go back and forth on this one — it’s probably true that this is the Johnson’s house.  However, I don’t believe that this was the original concept of the person who commissioned the sign.   Unless I’m mistaken, Mr. Johnson was announcing that more than one Johnson dwells in the abode.

Whatever.  It’s your sign, dude.

Back to my original point:

— The Major


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John on May 11, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Just saw this post. Outstanding. I am a trained English major who gets easily distracted by missing punctuation, misplaced apostrophes and poor sentence structure. Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront. It should be a Dateline NBC story…perhaps airing on Presidents’ Day.


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