From the Archives!—SpecGram Propaganda XIII—The SpecGram Archive Elves™ SpecGram Vol CLXXIX, No 4 Contents On Ergative-Relativity—I. N. Stein

O, Apostrophe!

By Anita G. Gorman

Today, my dears, we shall discuss the apostrophe, with all its works and pomps. Or to write that another way, today, my dear’s, we shall discuss the apostrophe, with all it’s works’ and pomp’s.

Anyone who is observant has observed that in recent years the apostrophe has become problematic. Our schools seem to have given up teaching its uses, while at the same time our schools have not eliminated our personal desire to be “correct” or to be somewhere above bottom on the social scale. Therefore, amid our social uncertainty and our ignorance of the apostrophe, we try to compensate or overcorrect and end up with “Fresh vegetable’s today!”

Those who are environmentally conscious may be aware that the apostrophe takes up space and therefore, eventually, after a really, really long time, wastes paper. It also wastes ink and toner and does its little bit to damage the earth. There is no doubt, therefore, that the apostrophe needs to be eliminated from our ancient and noble language.

“But wait,” I hear you cry, “won’t the lack of the apostrophe obscure meaning? Could a war begin if we do not know whether the units’ or the unit’s guns are pointed in our direction?”

Ah, my dears, think for a moment. Units’ or unit’s: if the guns are pointing at us, then we must act or run away. It’s that simple.

Here is something to consider. There are languages that do not use the apostrophe. No, really, I am serious. For example, Swedish, the language of my forefathers and foremothers, does not use the apostrophe. At least, I have never seen one. I think the Swedes may be too busy dealing with their three extra letterså, ä, and öto bother with the pesky little apostrophe. Consider farfars farfars far, which means great-great-grandfather (but only in the paternal line) if I have counted my fars correctly. The Swedes could have made this farsfarsfarsfarsfar, which would have been more accurate since fars far means father’s father, and one can see how easily the possessive is enacted by adding a simple “s” without the apostrophe. However, saying and writing and looking at farsfarsfarsfarsfar (one word!) would have been difficult if not risible, and so the Swedes simplified this construction to farfars farfars far (three words!) which, if you will remember, means great-great grandfather, assuming I have correctly counted my fars. Nowhere in all of this did the apostrophe intrude, clutter up the page, and waste ink.

In English, if I were to write, “My mothers mothers uncles hat is hanging on the hat racks top,” you would know exactly what was meant, but you would be uncomfortable with the lack of apostrophes. A Swede who read, “Min mormors morbrors hatt hänger på hatthyllans topp” would not question the lack of apostrophes, just the peculiarity of the depiction. And by the way, uncle in Swedish is either morbror or farbror, just as grandmother is either mormor or farmor. English used to make those distinctions, but that’s another story for another time.

To return to the hat still perched on the hat rack: A badly educated reader might want to place apostrophes in various incorrect places, but you, my dears, with your advanced degrees, would know exactly where they belong. In the end, I predict that we will keep the apostrophe. We will say it’s for clarity, but the real reason is snobbery. The cognoscenti will want to be able to distinguish themselves from the non-cognoscenti, and the non-cognoscenti will continue to place apostrophes where they do not belong, overcorrecting all the way from here to next Tuesday, or even Wednesday.

From the Archives!SpecGram Propaganda XIIIThe SpecGram Archive Elves™
On Ergative-RelativityI. N. Stein
SpecGram Vol CLXXIX, No 4 Contents