The 10th annual National Punctuation Day was Tuesday, a day when SNOOTs all over the planet are encouraged to celebrate by finding and circling punctuation errors in their local papers, publicly shaming trolls, and basically judging those who are too busy…I dunno…doing stuff like this, to know that a semicolon separates two independent clauses. It wasn’t all sunshine and exclamation points, though. (That’s my only pun in this post – get over it.) An article I read in Time reminded us that the days of the apostrophe are nigh.
I like to think of myself as a soft prescriptivist. “Will you give Steven and I a ride to the airport?” No, absolutely not. “Will you watch the dog for a half hour? I’m gonna go lay out.” Ugh…yeah, fine, as long as you’re sunbathing, and not lying down for any other reason…stupid idiosyncratic constructs. I mean, language changes; thou canst deny that. But when I hear plans to flick the apostrophe into the abyss, it honestly scares me. So why am I scared about its potential demise? One reason lies in the preceding sentence.
Because I’ve known the rule for years, I didn’t have to think about leaving the apostrophe off its two sentences up. But I suspect a handful of folks would either write it’s potential demise, or, even worse, would have to pause to think about which is correct. Therein lies the problem. They would have to slow down and think. And these days, while so many businesses are making cuts and finding way to be more efficient, perhaps we don’t have time to stumble over an inconsistent rule regarding possession versus contraction in the use of it and is.
On killtheapostrophe.com (yup that’s a thing), the author writes, “Tremendous amounts of money are spent every year by businesses on proof readers, part of whose job is to put apostrophes in the ‘correct’ place – to no semantic effect whatsoever.” Well, yeah, I spent a long, largely unemployed summer learning that proofreaders aren’t as big a priority as they once were. It’s a scary time for a lot of people, including writers who want to write and edit professionally. However, I kind of lost it when I continued scrolling down on the KtA site. On discussing the issue of plural possessives:
“The plural possessive is an instance where the apostrophe doesnt work as advertised and therefore should be replaced by something more consistent. My personal preference is to use the letter z for plurals, so that we could talk about, for instance, seeking the ministerz approval or seeking the ministers approval depending which we meant.”
Are you kidding me? The ministerz approval? Hell, we may as well shorten the word biscuit to bizkit, too, because it’s spelled less confusingly, and has fewer letters. Or even better, it has less letters! See what I did there? Less has less syllables and letters than fewer! Yeah, cuts! Speed! Efficiency!
See why I’m a little scared about this?
I know the author is focused on killing apostrophes, not the word fewer, but I really do think ministerz looks like shit, and I suspect many, many English speakers agree. I mean, really? Jesusz Son by Denis Johnson? (Yes, I know, obviously Johnson wouldn’t be forced to change the name of his book in the event of the apostrophe’s banishment; I’m just being dramatic.) But you know what else looks like shit? Apostrophes in the middle of hashtags, and those certainly aren’t going away. We’ve already stopped capitalizing as frequently in informal writing because it’s easier and faster and that’s fine. I’m used to it. It’s just that…I dunno. It’s one thing to see your hours cut at work, or your sentences cut in a manuscript. It’s another to see the apostrophe go, and I think beneath it is the sad realization that very few people in the Real World – those who are going to be signing your paychecks and expecting exceptional work out of you with no excuses – give a fuck if you know how to properly use an apostrophe. If the apostrophe goes, tough shit. Quit crying about it and do your job.
Oh well – if we lose the apostrophe, at least it’s kind of like not having to wear a tie to work anymore.