Monday, May 08, 2006

Arguments on the Apostrophe "s"

I recently acquired a book entitled, The Question Book. A General Review of Common School Studies. "To be used in schools, in connection with text books," by Asa Craig (10th edition, Caldwell Prairie, Wis: Published by the Author, 1878). Looking through it, I could not imagine who would do well with such questions. Even our most studious and scholarly-minded university students would have trouble with these questions. There is no indication in the book which grade or age group is targeted here, but I would have to say high school. The book covers US history, geography, grammar, reading, Orthography (phonics), Civil Government, Physiology, and Physical Geography (geology).

The grammar section was of most interest to us. I present you with question #50:
How are letters and figures made plural?

The answer is: "By annexing 's.

Since this was something I have been doing for years, it made sense. However, after a brief discussion with Craig, I realized that this use of the 's is considered incorrect and always has been in many circles. I refer you to The Green Grocer's Apostrophe, which has been abused for so long that many people don't realize it is incorrect. It's seen more in the UK than here, though not exclusively.

So, we know we don't use the 's in reference to a plural, but its use has been sanctioned in the case of numbers for many years. Or it used to be. Looked at objectively, it really is just plain wrong.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Damask Rose said...

I just came upon this delightful mediaeval poem, which shows how plurals used to be formed with 'is' and not just 's'. Thought you might like it, anyway!

For mirth of May, with skippis and with hoppis,
The birdis sang upon the tender croppis,
With curious notes as Venus' chapell clerkis.
The roses yong new-spreding of their knoppis,
Were powdered brycht with hevinly beriall droppis,
Throu' bemes rede birnyng as ruby sperkis,
The skyes rang for schouting of the larkis.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Having made the error of following the link provided to the photographs of crimes perpetrated against the hunble apostrophe in the UK, Lady Bracknell will now lie down in a darkened room until such time as she is fully recovered from the assault on her delicate sensibilities.

(But not before expressing her thanks for the link to her own scribblings from this fine blog.)

5:11 PM  

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