Today is Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Troubled Relationship: Ownership and Apostrophes

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By ANNE DONNELL

Would you go over how to make the “possessive”?  Please write about the apostrophes.  Also, I wonder do you make up some of these letters? You’ve been writing this for several years, and it surprises me that so many people are interested in asking questions and trying to improve.  That’s why I wondered if you just made these up.

-E-Mail Buddy

Hey, E-mail Buddy, you wrote yours, didn’t you?  That’s all the answer you’ll get!  I’m too busy over here wondering what shade of green non-Irish people wear on St. Patricks and will I receive a good size box of candy on Valentines and should I decorate the house for Presidents Day.  (Powdered wigs and stove pipe hats?)

 Now, what was the trick in that last sentence? 

Possessives, possessive nouns, that is, without apostrophes!  (St. Patricks, Valentines, Presidents)  The usage here is the same as Mens Restroom, Girls Club.  We’ve said and written these kinds of expressions so often that their possessive nature has been forgotten.  The apostrophes drifted away years ago.  There’s no loss of communication, is there?  My computer’s Microsoft Word highlights some of them as incorrect, but most of our eyes slip right over them without a blip.

Once you begin thinking about all this you’ll find yourself on shifting sand. 

Perhaps this is the best time to remind you that possessive personal pronouns NEVER have apostrophes.  EXAMPLES OF POSSESSIVE PERSONAL PRONOUNS his, her, their, its.  To my shame I incorrectly inserted an apostrophe in a possessive pronoun years ago while typing the short book my father-in-law wrote a little over a decade ago. (Driving Through Life: The Autobiography of Comer A. Donnell – it’s on the internet if you’re interested. http://home.comcast.net/~antigone/grand.html )

I mentioned his book to encourage readers to try their hands at writing autobiographies (with correct possessive pronouns); such accounts are beyond price for friends and family members, providing stories and information easily lost, frequently lost.  Who of us, surviving our parents, don’t find questions we wish we could ask?  Family personal histories should not be taken to the grave; they are  a familiar, connected pieces of the patchwork quilt of existence, never too tattered to be explained and explored.  Someone else has always done something worse (or better).

Well, I did see a bit on TV featuring comedians reading excerpts from celebrity autobiographies.  They were really funny because the pretentiousness and excesses of the works were on parade.  You’re safe when writing your autobiography if you’ll (1) Avoid pretentiousness and excesses; (2) Avoid fame. 

Yes, I’m having another logorrhea moment. 

THE BASICS  Guidelines for forming possessive nouns (and indefinite pronouns. EXAMPLES OF INDEFINITE PRONOUNS: anybody, someone, nobody).  •Add ‘s to form the possessive of indefinite pronouns and singular and plural nouns that do not end in s. • Add ‘s to form the possessive of singular nouns ending in s or with an s or z sound. • Add only an apostrophe to form the possessive of plural nouns ending s or with and s or z sound. 

THE FRILLS  • To form the possessive of compound nouns, add ‘s to the last word. EXAMPLE brother-in-law’s (Note the plural would be brothers-in-law.  Possessive of that is the awkward brothers-in law’s as in this sentence The three brothers-in-law’s coats were in a pile in the hall. ) • To show joint possession make the final name possessive.  EXAMPLE  Jason and Susan’s cat. • To show individual ownership make all names in a series possessive.  EXAMPLE Jason’s, Susan’s, and Meredith’s cars were damaged. • Use ‘s to form the PLURAL of letters, numbers, abbreviations, and words used empty of meaning (not an Alzheimer’s joke).  EXAMPLES OF THAT LAST ONE.  How many the’s are in that paragraph? There were too many !’s in the e-mail.

What are people doing wrong (I mean about forming the possessive, not personal behavior)?  THE MOST COMMON ERROR.  Forming a plural possessive like this: The Brown’s and then painting it on a yard sign, a permanent yard sign.  The Brown’s means “belonging to the Brown.”  Those little elf-surrounded yard signs should read The Browns’ or simply The Browns.  These mistaken things scattered all over the community give our tourists A BAD IMPRESSION, A FEELING THAT STUPIDITY FILLS THE AIR, ETC.   MERCY!

ONLINE DEPARTMENT  (Thanks, LD) “Gentle Lessons of Life” •A penny saved is obviously the result of a government oversight. • The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends. •The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a new replacement for it. •Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are ' XL.' ••If you can smile when things go wrong, you must have someone else in mind to blame. •The sole purpose of a child's middle name is so that he can tell when he's 'really' in trouble. •There's always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don't hurt. •Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words 'The' and 'IRS' together it spells 'Theirs.' •The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for. •First you forget names, then you forget faces. Then you forget to pull up your zipper. It's even worse when you forget to pull it down. •Lord, Keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth...AMEN..!!

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