The apostrophe - a dog's dinner?
This week we learned that the apostrophe is the punctuation mark which causes most problems. IT firm SpinVox found nearly half of 2000 adults it tested were unable to use the apostrophe properly. The possessive plural was most misunderstood, with 46% thinking the example "people's choice" was wrong despite being correctly punctuated.
Unsurprisingly, teachers came top of the class in the test, with 80% getting full marks. Perhaps more surprisingly, especially given the comments on the Newsnight blog, journalists came second.
We discussed the issue on Newsnight - you can watch Jeremy and linguistics professor David Crystal below - and invited you to contribute your most egregious examples of poor apostrophe use. Here's a précis...
Someone called akaBigBob (one of the great things about this blog lark is that people don't have real names any more) told us he'd seen a sign in a Lymington secondhand book shop: "H.G.Well's Time Machine - 50p". Having died in 1946 HG is clearly not Well - but he might have seen this decline in punctuation coming.
As if to prove a rule, the unexceptionally-named chris-pearson laid claim to "the ultimate grocer's apostrophe" (grocers'?). He says, "'Twas in an auction catalogue - for a piece of photographic equipment, a "len's". Provenance is very important at auctions, Chris.
Welsh viewer ceredigioncradock weighed in with his/her own example: "There was no dinner in the house, so I ate the dogs. Or did I eat the dogs'?" I kind of hope the latter, but either way I think you might have more to worry about than where to stick an apostrophe.
If you fear for the next generation of grammarians and linguists, perhaps you should consider an aptly entitled school, as eclayton did: "I am happy to say that all our daughters attended James Allen's Girls' School in Dulwich. They were thus given a head start in the use of apostrophes which has always sustained them." No mention of eclayton's sons' or son's knowledge of punctuation.
But any entry that includes two such mistakes in one piece of signage must be the winner, full stop. So with just 42 shopping days until Christmas, here's gen0me's festive entry:
"Recently seen outside a garden centre in London suburbs: Xma's Tree's."
Jeremy asks linguistics professor David Crystal if we should ditch the apostrophe: