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By ANNE DONNELLWhen should an apostrophe be added to form the plural of nouns? Or should it ever?  I think the apostrophe is the most misused mark of punctuation.  Do you agree?   -Watching The Marks

Yes, I agree. Considering all the time spent, past and present, teaching the correct use of the apostrophe, what on earth?  An apostrophe influenza has struck America, symptomatically marked by a rash, a rash of apostrophes! Wrongly placed apostrophes. Unnecessary apostrophes.  I’m pulling my hair out over this one. Picture me with only one side of hair – looking for Rograine. Bald over apostrophes!

 Signs, both yard and billboard, magazines, catalogs (now we’re talking volume), newspapers, television ads, ads in movie theaters – all victims of apostrophe influenza.

There is an uncommon circumstance in which forming the plural needs an apostrophe.  The plural of numerals, letters, and words used empty of meaning all require an apostrophe.  This last part of the explanation seems nonsensical without examples. EXAMPLES OF PLURALS (underlined for emphasis) CORRECTLY WRITTEN WITH APOSTROPHES, USED IN SENTENCES. How many 2’s are in this number? How many F’s were on your report card?  How many the’s are in this paragraph?

Notice that without the apostrophe the above expressions are confusing, especially the last one: 2s, Fs, thes. This uncommon use of the apostrophe to form plurals is designed for clarity.  It has nothing to do with possession, one of the two common reasons for adding an apostrophe (or an apostrophe s) at the end of a noun. EXAMPLE. Where is John’s revolver? (The other reason?  The writer is forming a contraction. EXAMPLE. John’s  promised to clean up his act. )

Why the misuse of so many apostrophes? Why do people stick them willy-nilly in plurals? Skipping for now the obvious explanations (carelessness and ignorance) brings us to the idea that some plurals “don’t look right.” EXAMPLES.  the Kennedys, mamas and daddies. But they are right.

Teachers often combine instruction on forming plurals with instruction on forming possessives. The tune in, tune out student does some further combining, surviving with peculiar ideas he or she believed “learned in school.” Applying this “learning” yields some of those messes we’ve been seeing (for years).

We moved to our present home in the eighties. At that time a family down the street with our same last name had a yard sign proudly stating, “The Donnell’s.” Though it probably kept the Halloween damage down at my house (I was a high school teacher – remember?), it was a source of embarrassment. It looked as though I didn’t practice what I preached. The Donnell’s means “belonging to The Donnell.” It does not mean either “belonging to The Donnells” or simply, “The Donnells.”

The last two meanings are appropriate in front of a house; the first is incorrect, PERIOD. 

R*E*P*E*A*T*I*N*G:  The plural of your family name has no apostrophe.

ONLINE DEPARTMENT: “Word Puzzle” (Thanks, DS) What nine letter word in the English language is still a word when each of the nine letters is removed one by one?ANSWER [Whoever figured this out (1) is very bright and (2) has extreme amounts of extra time.]  STARTLING→ STARTING→ STARING→ STRING→ STING→ SING→SIN→ IN →I

“Humor for Lexophiles (lovers of words)” (Thanks, DW) • I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me. • Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest. • Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now. • To write with a broken pencil is pointless. • The short fortuneteller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large. • A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months. • When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A • Going crazy with the blackboard, the math professor did a number on it. • The professor discovered that her theory about earthquakes was on shaky ground. • The dead batteries were given out free of charge. • A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.• A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.• A will is a dead giveaway.• A backward poet writes inverse.• A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.• With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.• A grenade falling on a kitchen floor in France resulted in linoleum blown apart.• He broke into song because he couldn't find the key.• A calendar's days are numbered.• A boiled egg is hard to beat.• If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.• When she saw her first strands of grey hair, she thought she'd dye.• Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.• Acupuncture:  a jab well done. • I can't stand sitting down.

 BW (Bigtime Word) lustration – ritual purification by ceremonial washing or sacrifice.  Just the thing before Halloween.

 

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