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23 July 2008 @ 10:46 pm
The Punctuation Pixies, Part B (aka the appalling apostrophe)  
Right, back to the task that I thought would be a fun exercise for an evening. I really should drink more, then I wouldn't have ideas like this ...

The apostrophe
No punctuation symbol attracts as much hatred and passion as the apostrophe. I have had people swear, cry and throw things over this little curly squiggle. But it really and truly is not that hard. There are three simple rules. You will find them easy to remember. And then you will know which rule to check under to see if there's an example to fit your case since you have forgotten what the rules mean.

The three rules are:
1. You should use an apostrophe to indicate a contraction, both for words and for numbers.

2. You should usually use an apostrophe to indicate possession.

3. You can also use an apostrophe to indicate a non-standard plural or non-standard English.  Be careful with this one.

I am going to work through each of these in detail, and I am also going to make a rash promise. If you would ever like to discuss the apostrophe and can't work it out from this posting, just comment and I will do what I can to help. But please look below first. I am using coloured headings to make things as easy as possible.

1. You should use an apostrophe to indicate a contraction, both for words and for numbers.
This is the easiest of all the uses of an apostrophe, and its earliest. Simply put, it shows that you have left out some letters (or numbers).

Many of these forms are extremely common to English users:
Do not becomes don't
Cannot becomes can't
Will not becomes won't
Shall not becomes shan't
He will becomes he'll
Would not becomes wouldn't
Was not becomes wasn't
You are becomes you're
I am becomes I'm
He is becomes he's
It is becomes it's
and so on.

You can even combine this with words such as he'd've (he would have) but be careful here, this sort of flourish sees many people go wrong by listening to the sounds of the words, not thinking about the meaning. It's he'd've, not he'd of, for example.

There are other common, but slightly trickier contractions:
suppose becomes s'pose
six of the clock becomes six o'clock

And still others to show familiarity:
"I was reading my 'Merican flisters last night and one of them had a link to a video that took me straight back to the trip Dad and I took through East Africa after we were tossed out of Jo'burg."

There was a time when this was considered strictly informal language, and English schoolchildren were marked down for creative writing that featured dialogue with contractions no matter how appropriate it was for the character's speech, not that I'm bitter. Happily, this is now as outdated as deportment lessons.

While a strictly formal communication such as a legal document or a high-level business document should be written with everything in full, most fiction and many other official communications should feel free to use contractions where appropriate.

As to what is appropriate – where you need to lighten the tone a little, where you need to be confiding, where you have said 'he will' four times in the one paragraph, where you want to move closer to your reader, and where you want a chatty feel to your writing are all appropriate occasions.

Of course, we run into problems with these simple contractions all the time, because a lot of them sound exactly the same as other words. Who's sounds like whose, you're like your and they're like their AND there. This is why it can be helpful to think out the full form even as you write the contraction. 'You are just like your father, Harry' should obviously contract to you're.

There are also less regular contractions. You see them a lot in poetry and traditional works, such as the Bible, with words such as belov'd, e'en, ne'er. It's the sort of thing you can get away with if you are, in fact, Keats or Shakespeare, but everyone else should exercise caution with this use, as it easily veers into pretension.

. A CD and a DVD are acronyms, they use the initials of the words in the full name. They do not take apostrophes to form plurals. It is simply CDs and DVDs. I have been told of people arguing passionately for the apostrophe on the basis of missed letters, but in that case it would be D'V'D's, which is ridiculous.

Similarly, many words that once took apostrophes for contractions are now considered fine in their own right, so: phone, plane, photo, not 'phone etc.

The rules are the same for numbers
, particularly dates.
1986 becomes '86
2008 becomes '08
1960s becomes '60s
The general rule of thumb here is that it is best to give the full year for the first use, and you can then contract for subsequent uses. If you want to use only the contracted form, make certain there can be no confusion. I might know that "Skirt hem details and snappy boots were huge looks in '08" refers to 1908, but most people will assume 2008.

There are a few watchpoints. While '07 is correct, and the '60s is also correct, 60's is usually wrong.  It's usually just a plural:
Dumbledore was in his 60s before he realised that it was a little pathetic to still be obsessed with the first man he had shagged.
This one is easy to check: would you use the apostrophe if you were writing it as a word? If the answer is no, then you don't use it with the number, either.

Though it can be right to have 60's if you are actually contracting, usually if your style is using numbers rather than words for things such as age and you wish to contract an 'is':
"Didn't anyone tell you that 60's the new 40? Honestly, Flitwick, live a little."

The 60s' can also be right:
The 60s' hairstyles that were all the rage in Hogwarts that year reminded Sirius of the ancient porn magazines he had found in James's trunk.
In this case, the hairstyles belong to the period of the 1960s, but this is a possessive, so we'll deal with it below.

2. You should usually use an apostrophe to indicate possession.
This is the use of the apostrophe that causes an incredible amount of tooth-gnashing. To be fair, most of the mistakes in this area are the result of typos rather than ignorance. But I recently had to stet (that is, indicate that a change was to be ignored) the editor of a magazine I was working for when she confidently struck out the apostrophe in 'a doctor's advice'.

If madness is ever going to descend, it will be when dealing with the possessive apostrophe. Don't blame yourself, just do what you can. Take a look at the following categories of the possessive apostrophe if you have areas of regular confusion.

In many English words, to indicate a possessive, just add 's or ' AT THE END OF THE WORD.

That rule again: add an apostrophe and an s, or just an apostrophe at the end of the word. Okay, let's have a look at how that works in real-life situations.

Things belonging to people
This one is fairly basic, and you probably get it right:
Ron picked up the shoes and then put them back down again, they were Harry's, not his.

"Is that Draco's broom?" Blaise asked. "Quick, tie the pink streamers in among the straw, he won't notice."
"Pansy will be furious," Millicent warned.
"That's Pansy's problem."
"You don't have to deal with Pansy's mood swings."

Note that the thing belonging to someone can be an actual thing, such as shoes or a broom, or an intangible thing, such as a problem or mood swing. There is one trick to this rule, and that is for things belonging to people whose names end in S (and ce and x and other things that sound like s).

British usage prefers:
Remus's frown was back in place.
Sycorax's identity was never really explored in The Tempest.
After the war, Harry found himself reading obituaries, and was horrified to realise that he had never even registered Emmeline Vance's death.

Australian usage seems to prefer:
Remus' frown was back in place.
And in the few cases I have seen with words ending in x, it has gone with the form Sycorax', but for ce it strongly prefers Vance's.

Buggered if I can remember what Americans prefer, and I am writing this bit in my lunch hour at work, so I will try and remember to look it up later.  Okay, I've done that and Strumpf's The Grammar Bible says that US use also prefers Remus's and so on. But it also suggests kgs and kms, and I suspect it of lying on other topics, so I cannot trust it. Let me know, Americans!

There are, however, exceptions to the rule in British usage, such as Jesus' and Moses' being the standard forms.

Additionally, classical names that end in an ees sound also do not usually have an S added, so Rameses', Dioscorides' and Xerxes'  are also correct.

And names that end in an -iz sound do not have an S added, either, so Bridges' and Ramirez'.

Furthermore, the Oxford Essential Guide to Writing allows that you can choose to leave off the S if it's a polysyllabic name ending in S that would sound dumb with another S added to it.

The general rule here is to be guided by pronunciation. Jesus' is better than Jesus's because saying Jesus-es sounds as though you are stuttering. Similarly, Dioscorides's sounds like an uncomfortable intestinal ailment.

And if it ends in a silent S (or x or z), then you should again be guided by pronunciation, in every case I could think of, this involves adding the S. So Descartes's, de le Croix's, and so on.

For this reason, Remus's is right for me, because you would say Remus-es. However, if you live in a country where the style is Remus' for words ending naturally in s, that style will always look right to you, and the apostrophe is in the right place whichever way you look at it.

These rules are all exactly the same for people referred to by other names, so:
Harry was nervous about being invited to the Headmaster's office. Nothing good ever happened there.

"Ask him why he has a dominatrix's whip," Remus muttered.
"I stole it from a dominatrix!" Sirius grinned. He withstood Remus's glare for a full minute before he relented. "Oh, all right. There was a misunderstanding at the gymkhana and then I painted it red later."

And sometimes we leave off the thing that belongs to the person, but the possessive works just the same:
"Mum, Dad, I'm off to Ron's" Hermione sang out.

Plural possessives
This is really just the same rule, but it confuses people because they are suddenly dealing with an extra s or an unusual form. The easy way to check where the apostrophe belongs is simply to look at the word without the apostrophe. So:

The children were in the playground.
You will find them in the children's playground.

The shoes belonged to the boys.
The boys' shoes were scattered across the floor.

We were all afraid of the Death Eaters.
The Death Eaters' reign of terror led directly to the establishment of Wizarding counselling services.

From the above examples you can see that for unusual plural forms that do not end in S, you add an apostrophe and an S. Hence children's, men's, women's. For plurals that DO end in S, you just add an apostrophe, hence boys', Death Eaters', wizards'.

Just as with the contractions above, there is an easy way to check that you have plural possessives right. Just take away the apostrophe AND EVERYTHING AFTER IT.

So, you can see that childrens' is wrong, because there is no such thing as a childrens.

The Death Eater's reign of terror becomes a reign of terror perpetrated by one very scary Death Eater. Which is possible, but you would want to be sure that was what you meant to say.

Possessives of pronouns
This is another of those areas in English that are apparently designed as traps for young players. On the whole, most common pronouns DO NOT take a possessive apostrophe.

So, there is NO APOSTROPHE-TAKING FORM of the following:

my      your      our
his      her        their
its       mine     theirs
his      hers      ours

BUT there IS AN APOSTROPHE-TAKING FORM of the following:
one's      someone's      else's      other's
anyone's      anybody's      everybody's

Er, like that. Those. Oh, you can work it out.

At first glance this looks difficult, but there is a simple cheat to make sure you get it right every time. Take a look at all of the words in the first, non-apostrophe-taking group. You will notice after a minute that they are all already possessive. They are the possessive forms of our personal pronouns: I, me, he, she, we, and so on.

My shows that it belongs to me; your shows that it belongs to you; our shows that it belongs to us, and so on.

Moreover, in each case, there is someone that we can point to. I can point to myself for my and mine, I can point to you for her and hers, or his, depending on who you are – certainly for your and yours – and so on.

Look at the second group, they are all indefinite. It's one, everybody, somebody ... You can't point to these people, they are the waffly hand gestures of the pronoun world. So, because they are indefinite and not already possessive, they take an apostrophe.

If you can point to the pronoun with certainty, no apostrophe. If you are making a vague waffly hand gesture, apostrophe (and usually an S, too).

BTW, people make a dreadful fuss about it's/its, but, typos aside, it's obvious that the first is a contraction of it is and the second is a possessive form of it, isn't it? I firmly believe that most misuses of this word are just typographical blunders.

Things belonging to other things
It's not just people who take possessive apostrophes.

Animals follow the same rules as for people, so:
James looked into Sirius's trunk. "You call that packed?" he asked. "It's a dog's breakfast in there."
Sirius looked in James's, and smirked. "Better than yours. That's an octopus's garden."

Peter stared after his dorm mates mournfully. He could never hope to match the stag's speed, even the canines' turn of pace was beyond him.

Emotions can also take possessive apostrophes:
Love's Labours Lost
Draco could barely feel his toes in the dungeon, but his stomach was warmed by anger's righteous glow.

All of the sakes fall under this category, too, so:
goodness' sake, Jones' sake, fuck's sake, heaven's sake, appearance's sake ...
NB appearance' sake is also correct, and there is nothing technically wrong with goodness's sake, it just looks stupid.

Things belonging to units of time and length
Strictly speaking, this category is a big fat cheat. In one week's holiday, the holiday doesn't really belong to the one week. But it is much easier to remember this rule if you pretend it does.

"Have you seen today's Prophet?" Hermione whispered urgently.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Which bit? That's twelve pages' reading there!"

"How much tartan is in that robe?" Professor Trelawney asked admiringly.
"Eighteen yards' worth, and each hand-woven by brownies," McGonagall replied.

"Three months' holiday," Harry sighed.
"I've always wondered about that," Draco mused. "Other writers come up with really cool stuff for us to do on our summer hols, but when it comes to Jo, it's as though she has an allergy to healthy outdoor activities."
"Well, she did go to school in Scotland ..."

3. You can also use an apostrophe to indicate a non-standard plural or non-standard English.  Be careful with this one.
This is one of those fields that can draw blood in a publishing house. I have had stet wars with other editors over the following. My professional advice is just steer clear, but if you'd like a quick descent into the madness, look below.

BTW, the reason that this type of apostrophe is a bit mad is that for a long time the apostrophe was pretty much stuck in wherever it looked as though English needed a punctuation symbol and none of the others would do the job adequately.

SO, it is used to show the plurals of letters:
Sinistra looked at her charges with what could only be described as despair. "Would it kill you all to mind your p's and q's?" she asked.

"Emus Lupin," James read. "You need a new trunk label, Moony."
"He has problems with his R's," Sirius cackled.
Remus glared at him. "I'll give you problems with your arse."

It can be used to show the plurals of words that do not usually take plurals
Harry ran through his mental list of memoir titles: The Do's and Don't's of Defeating Dark Lords was too long, but Vanquishing Voldemort had a certain alliterative something.

It is also used to indicate idiosyncratic forms of words
After so many weeks in the tent, Hermione was all ennui'd out, and had decided to explore her inner birdwatcher.

And finally, to indicate dialect
"Eet eez, 'ow do you say?, 'orrible in that room. Like a preezon." Victoire stamped her tiny foot.
"Oh for Merlin's sake," Teddy groaned. "You grew up in Kent, where do get off talking like that?"

And that is pretty much that!I cannot think of any other uses of the apostrophe that you will need to know. (I give myself about three hours before the first edit of this post ;-)

I feel quite certain there will be typos, and possibly other errors in the above, as I have no proofreader at home and my brain is full. Let me know and I will fix as quickly as possible!

I know I said I was going to wrap everything up in this post, but this has taken hours and I need rest. In the next few days I will finish up with the quotation mark, the dash, the hyphen, the parenthesis and the square bracket and its friends. Feel free to mention if there is something you think I have missed.

Just a side note with  few things that get up my nose
You can feel free to ignore these, they are all mostly concerned with style, but they make me into a frothing crazy person. To listen to me on this topic you would never guess that I have a healthy sex life.

It's km2, with the 2 written as a superscript, not fucking sq km. There is no international unit represented by the sq!

I have had people whinge at me "But then you don't know if 422km2 is 422 square kilometres or 422 x 422 square kilometres, it's confusing!"

RUBBISH! Of COURSE it's the former. If it were the latter it would be written (422km)2 (that 2 is also allegedly superscripted, but I am a gibbon at html). It's not hard! It's just maths! It's the truly international language!!

For the same reason, the symbol for millilitres should be written mL, since m is the symbol for milli and L is the symbol for litre. Many publications choose ml because it 'looks nice'. Fuck them, if 'looks nice' was really important, we would bid farewell to all the words ending in ugh for a start. Take a look at your cosmetics, I bet you you'll find some mL symbols on them. Ah captive cosmetic company chemists, I love that you cling to standards in this one small part of your lives.

There is no such thing as a kgs or kms, it is 1km, 452km, 1km, 25kg and so on. The symbol is both singular and plural.

And it is km/h or kph, not kmh, there is no such thing as a kilometre hour. If I was as good at science as I am at scientific notation, I would invent nanobots that I would then set loose in the shoes of people who insist on all of these evils and they would feel as though they had permanent tinea.
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on July 24th, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
Will take a while for me to assimilate all this, but just letting you know I'm saving all these grammar posts to memories. ♥
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 24th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)
I think I broke my brain with this one, AMber ...
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on July 24th, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
Writing about punctuation would break anyone's brain.
(Deleted comment)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 24th, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)
From what I can recall, you have always been very well served by your gut feeling!
beatnikspinster on July 24th, 2008 03:03 pm (UTC)
Excellent! I'm adding this to my memories. Very handy. I'll screw up anyway, unfortunately.

The 60s' hairstyles that were all the rage in Hogwarts that year reminded Sirius of the ancient porn magazines he had found in James's trunk.
Hahahaha! Too, too funny!

The final side note is a problem created by my people: graphic designers. We, especially those of us in marketing, break dozens of rules every day in the name of branding.

Design text styles shouldn't be used for body copy, but, alas, it creeps in anyway. Because we're members of an evil alternate universe soaking up all your world's sanity to power our giant giggling radios.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 24th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
Oh the arguments I have with designers over capitals and apostrophes ...

I now start my time in every new workplace discussing my hobby of target archery. It engenders a subtle fear.
beatnikspinster on July 24th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
Hahahaha!!!! Hey, if it's titles, subtitles, or any kind of editorial design, you win hands down. If it's space-critical online advertising or packaging, then art will generally win.

Those are id spaces. Reading makes people reflective and rational. Rational people don't buys pancake-sausage rollups. You have to make them irrational with bright colors and shiny things. That's my job. *is evil* ;)

It's been a while, but I was the archery state champ when I was 11. I can brush up. :D
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 24th, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC)
That would be the Best Workplace Ever.

"So what did they decide to go with in the end?"
"No sure, Heathen and Brammers are shooting it out for the final say."

And for really important jobs we could don mountainbike body armour and shoot blunts!
beatnikspinster on July 24th, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)
Hahaha! No, you would win the mountain bikes. I have NO balance whatsoever. I fall flat on my back on level, unobstructed ground, wearing comfort shoes.

Adult-sized tricycles and nerf jousting lances?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 24th, 2008 03:56 pm (UTC)
I am SO IN! Even after the nefarious nerf finger breaking accident back in January ;-)
Randy: Buggredrgaellon on July 25th, 2008 10:28 pm (UTC)
Did you know that the Society for Creative Anachronism has combat archery teams fielded at most of the major "wars"?
&helena;uminohikari on July 24th, 2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
Re: American usage of the possessive form of names ending with 's'--my English teacher last year said:
Remus' frown, Emmeline Vance's death, Sycorax's identity

But she also accepted Remus's frown, which is what I usually write. American usage of things is awesome in that using any other country's usage is also acceptable :Db
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 24th, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
I think it is by far the most logical way to approach the situation. I was once hauled in to defend a friend who had lost five points on an essay for having a Remus' style word. In addition to all my other arguments, I pointed out that was a stupid rule for a biology essay.
Camden: Brainabusing_sarcasm on July 24th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
You deserve the internet equivalent of a Pulitzer for doing these posts. *bows down*

And a pox on anyone who makes any grammar or punctuation choices because they "look nice." Not cute chicken pox, either. Large pox. The French disease. You get my drift.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 09:43 am (UTC)
You know that from now on I will look at everyone who suggests this and wonder about the spotty state of their genitalia. And I will blame you!
romaine24: writingswirlyromaine24 on July 24th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you, thank you!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 09:46 am (UTC)
You are very, very welcome.
Vaysh Swiftstorm: H/D_blushvaysh on July 24th, 2008 06:35 pm (UTC)
Again, thank you so much for putting this together. It is highly appreciated!

As a side: count yourself lucky that your language does not have a polite form of address. It is my constant, mouth-frothing struggle, that yes, the "Sie" is capitalised (polite form!), whereas the "du" is not.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 09:50 am (UTC)
I have had arguments with dictionaries drawn over whether Schadenfreude maintains its capital S when used in English, you know ... At least you have a full raft of ungendered pronouns. English used to, but we threw out a bunch of useful ones.
hpreader on July 24th, 2008 06:38 pm (UTC)

Thank you for these!

(Have added you to my flist for reading--and not just for these posts)


blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 09:52 am (UTC)
Cheers! Lovely to have a new friend! And do have some hugs back!
wemyss: true bluewemyss on July 24th, 2008 06:44 pm (UTC)
And of course....
The Court of St James's ALWAYS takes that apostrophic form.

(Also, pedant though I be, I cannot manage to care tuppence for the forms for the buggering, poxy metric system. Damned Frogs.)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 10:04 am (UTC)
Re: And of course....
Good point, I'll edit a little later tonight -- I am attempting to remember what else I have forgotten. I suspect it would not hurt to add eccentric plurals such as attorneys general and grands prix to remind people they do not take apostrophes, even if you are a third-generation grocer.

Regarding your parentheses, I am of that generation that is part-Imperial and part-metric. As I have often said in response to Americans who believe that England is metric, "Well, theoretically ..." A friend and I made a census of our language: height is in feet and inches, human weight is whatever sounds thinnest, food weight is in grams for chocolate and crisps, pounds for produce weight, petrol is per litre, economy is miles per gallon.

In my experience, Australia is very similar, save for being more uniform with kilograms for human weight (though this is not the case outside the larger cities).
wemyss: downswemyss on July 25th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC)
Humans weighed in metric measure?
You lot want to be ... stoned.

(Mind, I'm even now displeased by the decimalisation - a filthy word for a filthy act of surrender - of the coinage. Damn it, I want my pence, shillings, and indeed my three-penny bits. Yes, I AM a reactionary old bastard, why do you ask?)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Humans weighed in metric measure?

I resisted at first, but it's actually for the best. 64kg sounds so much better than 10 stone.

And I like having an older bastard than me on my flist.
Randydrgaellon on July 25th, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
Re: And of course....
I suspect it would not hurt to add eccentric plurals such as attorneys general and grands prix

Not to mention aviatrices, matrices, executrices, and that ilk. Oh, yes, and the plural of "virus" is "viruses" in English, properly "virūs" in Latin (though the word itself doesn't exist in extant samples of classical Latin, it is a fourth-declension form). "Virii" is a bastardization, and anyone who uses it should be infected with the nearest virus at once.
some kind of snark faeryshyfoxling on July 24th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)
The Grammar Bible says that US use also prefers Remus's and so on. But it also suggests kgs and kms, and I suspect it of lying on other topics, so I cannot trust it. Let me know, Americans!

I believe I was taught Remus', although elementary school is a long time ago now.
I prefer the look of Remus's, and generally use -s's unless, as you say, "it sounds dumb".

In one week's holiday, the holiday doesn't really belong to the one week.

You answered your own question here with the example of the tartan. The "worth", which is the thing being possessed, is sometimes left implied, as with "going over to Ron's". "One week's worth of holiday."

Harry ran through his mental list of memoir titles: The Do's and Don't's of Defeating Dark Lords was too long, but Vanquishing Voldemort had a certain alliterative something.

Alas, he has become Gilderoy Lockhart at last...

(that 2 is also allegedly superscripted, but I am a gibbon at html)

hoo-hoo-ha-ha-ha! <sup> is the tag you are looking for.

I'm in superscript!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 10:06 am (UTC)
Cheers, dear! I will fix that up this evening! And good gibbon impersonation ;-)

Most US publications I have ever edited for prefer Remus', I have great doubts about The Grammar Bible. My faith is gone!
jacked up on cheap champagnemizbean on July 24th, 2008 08:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you for putting these posts together. I've bookmarked them. Lord knows I need all the punctuation help I can get as my frequent and purely arbitrary use of commas can attest. That and the fact that I never did any fiction writing in school. These sorts of guides are truly a godsend to me.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
(If you can keep a secret -- I am a shocking comma abuser myself. I usually fix it all in the editing, but when writing I just toss them about with gay abandon. I blame too much Restoration drama as a young girl.)

Thanks Miz! I decided that I should use my powers of punctuation for good, rather than evil.
Meredythmeredyth_13 on July 25th, 2008 07:03 am (UTC)
This one actually made me feel better about myself. I realised that I actually do have the apostrophe reasonably down, and will forgive myself the odd typo of d00m.


(I will admit to kgs and kms - it's a speech thing, because I hear 'kilometres' in my head, and think it needs an 's' - although I just know it isn't needed in writing)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 02:36 pm (UTC)
Exactly! I have been known to type it's, they're and you're all in the wrong spots, but it's because my brain was listening to my ears, not my grammar neurons. That's why we edit and why email and comments are so prone to minor blunders (which should never be pointed out unless they're really really funny!)

I understand why people say kgs and kms in their normal everyday life, but I cannot abide grammarians and editors who hold with them. I become very English and sniffy and my nostrils flare. You would have a jolly good giggle watching it.

Meredythmeredyth_13 on July 25th, 2008 10:46 pm (UTC)
I am well prepared to giggle, woman, flarey nostrils are SO sexy. Now get your arse down here for the art deco exhibition, but not over the weekend of the 15 - 18th August, 'cause I'll be in Qld and that would be cruel, right? I shall sit back here in bed and continue to be a demanding cow - it seems to be my specialite'. *insert Southpark accent*

*tackles you with rampant punctuation*
pingridpingrid on July 25th, 2008 09:36 am (UTC)
"Eet eez, 'ow do you say?, 'orrible in that room. Like a preezon." Victoire stamped her tiny foot.
"Oh for Merlin's sake," Teddy groaned. "You grew up in Kent, where do get off talking like that?"

*Bursts out laughing* Brammers, I LOVE you! :D I'm so glad it's not just me.

My main problem with apostrophes is with the way the English usage is worming its way into Norwegian (together with many other features of the English language - this is your revenge, I suppose, for us messing up your language in the first place. ;) ). The Norwegian possessive s doesn't take an apostrophe, but damn and blast if more and more people don't put one in anyway. It just looks wrong and stupid, and is completely unneccesary as well: since we don't have the s-ending to indicate plurals there's no need to distinguish the genitive form from other s-endings. And then, because they get used to the apostrophe before the s, they put it before any s that ends a word, creating text that makes no sense at all. GAH!

I haven't yet submitted to the urge to sneak around at night to modify shop signs, but it can't be long now before I crack. And don't even get me started on the plentiful morons who separate compound words in Norwegian because that's how it's done in English; I'll burst a vessel. ;)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 09:41 am (UTC)
And don't even get me started on the plentiful morons who separate compound words in Norwegian because that's how it's done in English

WHY? WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS? It's one of the most useful things about Norwegian, Swedish, even German with its whole-text-line nouns. So many confusions arise in English sentences because of ambiguous compounds. They poor old hyphen is stretched to nearly breaking point in modern publishing.

You are right, though. English's worldwide domination plan is our revenge for everyone else buying American after WWII. You lot ate the last of our Empire, we will subvert your previously happy grammar!
pingridpingrid on July 25th, 2008 10:49 am (UTC)
If I knew why they do it I would simply invent a handy device to make them stop. Alas, it is a mystery. I fear it's because they think it doesn't matter, and I fear that someday soon they may turn out to be right ... It's linguistic Ragnarok out there!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 25th, 2008 10:52 am (UTC)
The French have it right at times, you know. A powerful and foul-tempered Academy would see you with your happy compounds and me retaining the proper meaning of fulsome.
pingridpingrid on July 25th, 2008 11:04 am (UTC)
Which is the proper meaning?

We do have the Språkråd which makes decisions and tries to inform about proper usage, but really, they don't hold much clout. And I can't really blame people for not being able to take them entirely seriously, unhappily placed as they are under the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs (ETA correct name). Whoops, there's the state religion tangent, best avoided in the interest of continued sanity!

Edited at 2008-07-25 12:33 pm (UTC)
blamebramptonblamebrampton on July 26th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
Oh dear. Yes, there should probably be a bit more of a break between those two.

Fulsome used to mean over-abundant to the point of insincerity. So if you gave someone fulsome praise, you were basically being ironic. Now in America, to some extent in Australia, and, depressingly, even in Britain, the usage is primarily lacking in irony and just means 'a whole lot'.

Though occasionally that leads to accidental truth in reporting, such as: "former-President Clinton was fulsome in his praise of President Bush's international diplomacy." I laughed a lot when I read that.
pingridpingrid on July 27th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC)
Seriously. A state religion. In 2008. *hangs head in shame*

:D That's a fantastic quote!
Randy: English Puritydrgaellon on July 25th, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
The Grammar Bible says that US use also prefers Remus's and so on

I was taught Remus' hat, but Sycorax's and Vance's. (The lone apostrophe is only to be used with a terminal 's' - and is ALWAYS to be so used. "Remus's" is WRONG. Or so I was taught.)

As far as the possessive - only nouns can be made possessives, and in the famous words of an American educational cartoon, "A noun is a person, place or thing!" (Of course, "things" can be concrete or abstract, but you know what I mean.)

Your dialect example is a specific case of a more general use you already described - the missing letter.

HTML for superscript: <sup></sup>, viz. km2. sub generates subscripts.

Re: mL - According to Wikipedia: The one exception is the litre, whose original symbol "l" is unsuitably similar to the numeral "1" or the uppercase letter "i" (depending on the typeface used), at least in many English-speaking countries. The American National Institute of Standards and Technology recommends that "L" be used instead, a usage which is common in the US, Canada, Australia (but not elsewhere). This has been accepted as an alternative by the CGPM since 1979. The cursive ℓ is occasionally seen, especially in Japan and Greece, but this is not currently recommended by any standards body.

That is to say, outside the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Greece, and according to the official governing body of the Système International d'Unités, "ml" is correct.

Edited at 2008-07-25 10:26 pm (UTC)
grey_hunter on July 26th, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
This was great! I was always always puzzling about things whether it should be Scorpius' or Scorpius's, now at least I have more of an idea! ^______^ Thanks for making up for all those missed English courses in my past. *grins*

oh and it's km<sup>2</sup> --> km2 --> like the company that now owns LJ
subscript is the same just with <sub>x</sub>
(Anonymous) on August 21st, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Gawd, I luv the f@&%ing Brittish,
Hyper-concered on the formality of grammar and cussing like a sailor. Here's to the people that put the 'cunt' back in country! (scccht, spt~ala Victor Borge)