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Kill the apostrophe
Let's get rid of the apostrophe
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2014/01/01
4:49pm
larrfirr
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The main purpose of the apostrophe today is for pedantic people to harp on when someone fails to use it.  The apostrophe has no relation to the spoken language.  Punctuation does relate to pauses, intonation etc. but the apostrophe doesn’t.  And besides, it is annoying on a keyboard, especially on a cellphone where you have to switch to numbers/symbols to get the apostrophe. I know this would cause a few strange words, like Thomas’s would become Thomass, but we could get used to it.  English is almost unique in that it doesn’t have diacritical marks, and I have seen the diaerisis disappear in my lifetime, and the hyphen is on it’s way out, so why not the apostrophe?

 

DOWN WITH APOSTROPHES!!!

2014/01/01
7:55pm
Ron Draney
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larrfirr said

…and the hyphen is on it’s way out, so why not the apostrophe?

 

DOWN WITH APOSTROPHES!!!

Well, down with that one, at any rate….

2014/01/01
8:10pm
faresomeness
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It’s not my wont to cant, but how’ll we tell can’t from cant and wont from won’t?

2014/01/02
9:10am
Glenn
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Ron Draney said

larrfirr said

…and the hyphen is on it’s way out, so why not the apostrophe?

 

DOWN WITH APOSTROPHES!!!

Well, down with that one, at any rate….

Excellent! Speaking of which, I just had an iconoclastic realization regarding possessive pronouns ending in -s. My prior epiphany was that all of the pronouns in possessive form LACKED the apostrophe: my/mine; your/yours; her/hers; his/his; its/#; our/ours; your/yours; their/theirs. BUT I just realized that the impersonal one’s/# is an exception.

e.g. One must tend to one’s own finances.

2014/01/02
9:47am
Bob Bridges
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On a side note, after a number of goofs with my Android phone’s soft keypad I realized I probably didn’t have to use what I’d been issued, and went looking to the apps store for alternatives.  Most of them are simply variations on a QWERTY layout, but I ran across one innovative offering that not only is completely different but also lets me type scores of characters without switching keypads, yet it has only 14 buttons.  There are a number of ways to customize the display and the below image doesn’t match my own.  On my phone I don’t display the letters of the alphabet, any more than I need to see them on my PC’s keyboard.  But it does display a number of the other characters such as ‘~’, ‘&’, ‘[‘ and ‘\’, because I sometimes forget where those are.

 

With one tap or stroke on the 9 main buttons this keyboard can be induced to issue all the letters in the current case plus the following characters: – $ ! \ / + ` ^ ´ € = ? _ [ ( { ) ] @ | } * < ~ ¨ : . , ” ‘ > ; # & °; you can also change the case, cut and paste, delete forward and back, move the cursor and a few other things.  A slightly more complex movement instead of a stroke—a circle or a double-stroke (down and up, for example)—will get you the letters in the other case plus ÷ Â¥ ¿ ¡ — £ ± ¬ ª ¶ § plus about a dozen more that I don’t see how to reproduce here.  There are a good many characters you can produce by simply typing them consecutively:  Type ‘e¨’, for example, and it makes ‘ë’, though you don’t have to accept that behavior if you don’t want it.  Tap and hold a key for just over half a second and you get a numeral, or if you’re entering a lot of them you can change the keyboard to numerals with just a single tap—but even the numeral keyboard has all the extra non-alpha keys on it, so I can type a phone number with dashes, spaces, parens and so forth without switching back and forth.

The name of the product is MessageEase, and it’s available on the Android apps store free.  I love it.  Compressing all that functionality into a handful of buttons means I can reduce the size of the keyboard (leaving more space to view the message) yet still not have difficulty because of my big fat fingers.  And it never, ever tries to correct my typos!

2014/01/02
1:33pm
Ron Draney
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I grew up following the rule that words and letters used as themselves were pluralized by adding apostrophe+s. (Example: “There are too many and’s in that paragraph.”) While on this forum it’s possible to put the literal word or letter in italics (“ants forming a series of vs on the countertop”), this doesn’t work on Usenet or certain other text-only places.

The Brits, according to their usual pattern, have decided that such an apostrophe is an error, likening it to the greengrocer’s practice of advertising “fresh onion’s”. Eventually I came up with a likely sentence to squelch the objection:

He fails to dot his is, and all his as look like us.

2014/01/02
1:50pm
Bob Bridges
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I’ve seen the practice of using an apostrophe there, but I never heard it was a rule; I just thought someone made up the practice, to keep it from being confusing.

My own practice is to put the entire term in quotes.  That’s what quotes are for, after all.  So for your examples, I would’ve written

  • There are too many “and”s in that paragraph.
  • ….ants forming a series of ‘V’s on the countertop…
  • He fails to dot his ‘i’s, and all his ‘a’s look like ‘u’s.

It drives my spell-checker crazy, but I think it works otherwise.  And quotes, after all, are for when you’re talking about the word rather than the referent, which fits here.

2014/01/02
11:57pm
tromboniator
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The demise of the hyphen leads to some might strange stuff. Yesterday’s (yesterdays?) local paper ran the headline “Shotgun wielding man robs Grog Shop”. Upon reading the article it becomes clear that the headline should either have been “Shotgun-wielding man…” or “Man wielding shotgun…”. I’ll give up hyphens when I see a shotgun wielding a man.

2014/01/03
9:57am
Bob Bridges
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Just day before yesterday I saw mention of the desirability of bad block marking routines in hard storage.  Clearly they don’t want bad block-marking algorithms, they want good bad-block-marking algorithms.  I agree, the hyphen is still important and I use it frequently.

2014/01/03
10:37am
New River, AZ, USA
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Great points by Tromboniator and Bob Bridges. Proper use of the hyphen is all about avoiding ambiguities. I also use it frequently. Apostrophes are less critical for meaning and more about style, as their omission, when they are needed, usually results in gibberish (as in Ron Draney’s example “He fails to dot his is, and all his as look like us.” I see differences in guidelines for apostrophes in different style manuals, like for the plural of an acronym: IDs vs. ID’s. Don’t think I’ve ever seen “ID”s using the quotation marks suggested by Bob. But in all those forms, it’s quite clear that we are speaking about multiple ID cards/numbers/whatever. Likewise, by context, I would clearly understand: “That ID’s font is too small.” as being a possessive use of the apostrophe. I vote for retaining both punctuation marks. Not like it’s really our decision.  :)

 

2014/01/03
6:17pm
Bob Bridges
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In my defense, I didn’t say I’d use quotes with “IDs”.  The rule I would use is to use quotes when I’m talking about the word rather than about the word’s referent.  For example:

“You should delete those IDs after they’ve been suspended at least four months.”  I’m talking about the IDs; no quotes necessary.

“He fails to dot his ‘i’s, and all his ‘a’s look like ‘u’s.”  I’m talking about the letters themselves (and they have no referents); I use quotes.  Even if that weren’t the case, it seems necessary in this case to avoid confusion.

‘There are too many “and”s in that sentence.’  I’m referring to the word “and”, not using it as a conjunction, so it gets quotes—but the ‘s’ goes outside the quotes because it’s the word that’s plural.

2014/01/04
12:39am
Ron Draney
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Okay, now let’s kick it up a notch. How would you write (remembering that you don’t have access to italics and similar formatting resources):

He doesn’t understand that possessive pronouns don’t take apostrophes, so you’ll have to go through his entire document, changing all the it’ses to itses.

2014/01/04
10:06am
Bob Bridges
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:-)  My first impulse would be to use my rule with quotes.  Let’s see how it comes out:

He doesn’t understand that possessive pronouns don’t take apostrophes, so you’ll have to go through his entire document changing many of the “it’s”s to “its”s.

Sure, why not?

2014/01/04
7:38pm
deaconB
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larrfirr said
 English is almost unique in that it doesn’t have diacritical marks, and I have seen the diaerisis disappear in my lifetime, and the hyphen is on it’s way out, so why not the apostrophe?

I suppose you think people update their “re-zoom” when they foresee a job hunt?

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