Friday, December 01, 2006

What language problem?

I do not go insane over others' grammatical errors. I do not go insane over others' grammatical errors. I do not...

Okay, I do.

But I think I'm justified, at least in the case of the errant apostrophe.

I'm not going to complain too heartily about bloggers who put the darned thing where it shouldn't go, and who leave it out of crucial positions. I probably should, but blogging is so off-the-cuff that I often make errors, myself, and don't catch them until I've re-read them a week later. Blogging is public diary writing, occasionally with a purpose. In many cases, it's also a verbal sparring arena, in which you're allowed to get rough with words.

But last night, I saw a wandering apostrophe make its way into inappropriate position, in the midst of a professionally-produced television commercial. This was not some ad scrabbled together by the sales department of the local television station, or even by a community college student working toward an associate's degree in video graphics. The advertisement featured high-end(ish) computer graphics and professional models in quality, fashionable clothing, for a respectable (?!) department store.

On the layer-upon-layer of supposed sale catalogs from other stores, Gordmans (no apostrophe) discount department store chain has labeled the competitors' flyers as "THEIR'S".

I suppose if one has chosen to eschew an apostrophe in one's own business name, one might have no understanding of where it might go in other applications, such as with pronouns. But a simple rule might be applied -- a rule even the least linguistically adept blogger among us might be able to recall:
Possessive Pronouns show ownership and never need apostrophes.

If you're still not sure what this means, pretend there is a masculine gender to the object in question. If the chosen pronoun ("she", "it", "they") can be replaced by "he is" or "he has", it is not possessive, and asks for an apostrophe ("she is"= "she's"). If the article is replaceable by "his"... no apostrophe belongs. So, "their's" is comparable to "hi's". "Their's" is not a word. It is faulty communication.

Also, then, "it's" equals "it is", and not "something belonging to it".

When it comes to the apostrophe accompanying a pronoun, it's not that difficult to remember its status.

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