Monday, March 10, 2008

I"ve Always Thought That Daylight Saving Time Was a Stupid Idea

As it happens, I've been right all this time. Admittedly, I thought it was stupid because we're not saving any actual daylight, just redistributing it to the end of the day, and for that, um, privilege (??) we have to readjust our body clocks twice a year. I have enough trouble with my body clock wanting to dance to its own unique circadian rhythm as it is, so it's never been good for me. It's nice to have the economists on my anti-Daylight-Saving-Time side.

...

And now for a brief lesson about apostrophes, simply because most of you need it:

There are relatively few uses for apostrophes, though many people insist on using them in many ways. I understand this can be confusing. After all, if you see a lot of other people doing it, then who's to say that it's not right, or that at least you'll have a lot of company when you do the same thing? Well, if all the other lemmings were jumping off a cliff, would you follow them because you didn't know any better? Don't answer that; I'm afraid of what you might say. Whatever your lemming-like tendencies may be, I"m here to help you not go off that cliff.

First of all, apostrophes are NEVER used to express plural form. For example, if you have more than one cat, you would not say, "I have cat's." The apostrophe doesn't belong there. You simply have cats. Or ideas. Or suggestions. Or brains.

Second, apostrophes ARE used to show possession. For example, if I have a cat, you could say, "That is Mary's cat." The apostrophe in my name shows that the cat belongs to me. Whose cat? Mary's cat. To show plural possession, the rules change a bit. If the plural is indicated by a word that does not end in the letter S, such as children, you would apply the apostrophe in the same manner. "That is the children's cat." However, if the plural form does end in S, then you would put the apostrophe after the S. Imagine that a group of nuns shares a cat. You would write, "That is the nuns' cat." If it were only one nun that owned the cat, you would use the singular form, "That is the nun's cat," but with the plural form the apostrophe needs to go after the S.

The possession rule seems to get particularly confusing for people when it comes to last names. One of the most common mistakes I see is when people are indicating that their family will do something, but there is no indication of possession. The correct way to write this is to simply use the plural form, "The McBrides will bring egg salad to the pot luck." Because it is simply a plural, referring only to the fact that more than one McBride is in charge of bringing the egg salad, it does not need an apostrophe. However, if you are showing possession, it would be used more like, "Dinner will be at the McBrides' house." Note here that the apostrophe goes after the S since this is plural (more than one McBride, refer to plural possession rules above). The only time you would put an apostrophe before the S in possessive form is if there is just one person, as in, "We are going to Mr. McBride's house." Or, if you call someone by their last name, you might write, "We are going to McBride's house." This is the case only if it's just one person.

Third, apostrophes indicate missing letters, such as in the case of contractions. For example, if you make the words did not into the contraction didn't, the apostrophe indicates the missing letter. This is also sometimes used when abbreviating words, such as when the word international is written int'l. There the apostrophe fills in for more than one letter.

A good rule of thumb for apostrophe use is simply not to use one if you're not sure if it belongs. I see far more incidences of apostrophes being put where they do not belong than words that need apostrophes going without them. Better yet, if you're not sure, ask someone who can help you. There's nothing wrong with having questions as long as you ask them instead of just making up your own answer.

Does that make sense? I hope so.

14 comments:

daysgoby said...

Bookmarking this post for handy daily reference...I know I am bad about that!

laci said...

amen and amen.

holly said...

i am the apostrophe queen at work. i am constantly being asked about its proper usage.

you know what kills me? the fact that it's more and more acceptable to write words like "CD's" and "DVD's." drives me bonkers!

also, i hate daylight savings too. boo to that i say!

Jer said...

What if your name already ends in 's' and you own something. Like Jesus for instance. Would I say "It was Jesus' grace." or "It was Jesus's grace." I see this come up quite a bit, too.

marymuses said...

daysgoby, I'm glad you found my apostrophe info to be handy! Yay!

Laci, I should have asked, "Can I get a witness?" and then you could have stood up in front of your computer and gone, "AMEN, SISTER!"

Holly, that drives me crazy, too! It's CDs, DVDs, TVs, etc.

Jer, I believe both are technically correct, but Jesus' is much more succint, not to mention rolls off the tongue more smoothly. "Jesus's" sort of feels like a mouth full of marbles.

Jennifer said...

Hey, can this be a recurring segment, maybe a Dear Mary? segment? cause I have some things to write in about. I knew the apostrophe stuff, but I have never understood how and when to use all the different forms of lie/lay. I'm lying/laying somethind down. ?? I don't know !! I'm so lost! Can you help me, Mary?
Signed-
Mystified in Monastery

Anonymous said...

Maybe next you could address the use of "less" versus "fewer." That seems to trip up a lot of people. I think we're very close to a world where every word that ends with an "s" will have an apostrophe. I's that really what we want?

While visiting the Minneapolis Auto Show this weekend, I was surprised to see a booth that had three signs: "Cars" "Trucks" "SUV's"

I didn't know what to say.

--Todd

Clayton said...

This has long LONG been a personal pet peeve of mine, along with people using the incorrect forms of to/too/two and you're/your (such seeing a huge two-inch tall call to action in a major nationally circulated magazine to "Renew you're subscription!").

It's good to know that other people out there not only notice the massive overuse of "CD's and DVD's" (as seen on the nationally distributed aisle signs in use at Borders and other stores), but also take the time to voice their concerns to a larger audience. Personally, I just complain about it at every chance to whomever will listen.

Bravo on your post, and with continued effort, perhaps someday we will raise awareness to give the poor abused and overworked apostrophe a well-deserved break.

Shiz said...

Super amen, but let us not forget the its/it's exception. Since it's is a contraction for it is, the possessive of it is written as its, no apostrophe.

It is twelve o'clock = It's twelve o'clock.

The diary's pages are spattered with coffee = its pages are spattered with coffee.

Agreed?

Mary, you rock.

You have seen the apostrophe protection society, no? http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/

Shiz said...

There's also a blog, http://www.apostropheabuse.com/

Today's example is from Macy's, a Dr. Seuss shirt that says "Fox in Sock's."

Gah.

Shiz said...

Also, this is right, correct: 70s, 80s, 90s?

I've read somewhere that 70's/80's/90's is acceptable if you consider that the apostrophe is used for aesthetic reasons only.

What do you think?

Shiz said...

Todd, I am with you (and way over-commenting). Less is for singular nouns: Less hair, less dandruff, less bread, less dirt, less sleep.

Fewer is for plurals: fewer hairs, fewer cars, fewer items, fewer officers, fewer beets.

David said...

there should never be fewer beats.

David said...

or, uh, beets. oops.