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My pet hates 10 – apostrophe catastrophe 2 (Update)

Having a beer today in the pub in the village where I live I spotted a sign on a shelf saying: “The quiz has gone on it’s summer holiday!!!! Please re-join us in September.”

At first I couldn’t make out what it meant. So, the quiz had gone somewhere and it happens to be summer holiday. Then it dawned on me – a grammatical error, one of thousands you’ll find in English pubs. And few people will spot the error or care about it.

Apart from the irritating exclamation marks, the text uses an apostrophe where none is needed. It should have read: “The quiz has gone on its summer holiday.”

“It’s” is short for “it is”. A lot of people don’t know this.

In an earlier blog I dwelled upon situations where putting an apostrophe in the wrong place can change the meaning of a word or even a whole sentence. I also shared with you my thoughts on a practice where people add an apostrophe to words that don’t need it, the so-called greengrocers’ apostrophe.

A handmade sign in a grocery store might advertise Apple’s £1 a Bag when in reality plural for an apple is apples. You will find tomato’s substituting for the correct plural tomatoes or even potatoe’s rather than potatoes.

This ignorant practice is not restricted to grocery store signage. Just one example: a signpost at my local pub advertises Sunday Roast’s and I once told the landlord that the apostrophe shouldn’t be there. He exclaimed: “You’re the first one in all these years to have pointed this out to me!”

I must be horrible to be around, always looking for faults…

A variation on the apostrophe theme is the widespread habit to confuse its with it’s. Someone will happily write, Its not my fault, when it should read, It’s not my fault (it’s being short for it is). Or: The bear looked behind it’s back. It should be its.

A friend who is a school teacher told me about a new error that’s emerging amongst schoolchildren in some places in England. Apparently it’s becoming commonplace for kids to insert an apostrophe into transitive verbs ending with s, especially if the s is preceded by a vowel.

For example: The policeman identify’s the suspect, rather than identifies. This seems to have arisen from confusion between the genitive and accusative, and I suspect may be because some teachers can’t explain grammar at all well.

We now have a generation of children who are not always being taught grammar properly so expect to see this error in the next few years on websites and elsewhere.

I welcome your comments.

Rolf Soderlind

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One comment on “My pet hates 10 – apostrophe catastrophe 2 (Update)

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