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fruit and veg
magic formula
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Long Live Grammatical Correctness (an Apostrophal Rant)
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Assailed, once again, by a plague of apostrophes, like locusts, over the fruit and veg in yet another market, I despair. The humble apostrophe - so ill-used - hits back in the only way it can.

Amid a sea of bean's, potatoe's, apple's etc, it becomes a burr under my skin; a small claw which twists and turns and sets my nerves on edge - monstrous in its capacity for torture.

But I have a magic formula to remedy this - I shall chant it only once:

the apostrophe has two very distinct purposes

a) to indicate possession

b) to show where missing letters should be - hence it's meaning it is

Please indulge me, while I explain something the whole of the English speaking world should have learned aged 8-12:

David's coat, the man's car, the cat's paw - meaning: the coat of David, the car of the man, the paw of the cat. To fathom the position of the apostrophe, just ask - exactly who is the owner? and insert the little smudge ( ' ) and an "s" at the end (of David, the man, the cat) and voila: correct English possession.

The plural, is similarly formed by asking the same question and following the same procedure:

the dogs' tails (the tails of the dogs) - who own the tails? the dogs do.

the lads' boots (the boots of the lads)

the turnips' leaves (the leaves of the turnips)

However, it should be remembered that - people, children, men, women are already plural words, so:

the people's King (the King of the people)

the children's gloves

the men's room

the women's Ferraris ... and so on - it works every time, and it's so quick to do!

Incidentally, its is the exception. Possessive already, it requires no apostrophe. The only time one should be used is to shorten the phrase it is (it's) as in it will (it'll) or it would (it'd) etc.

I am not planning a vendetta against market traders across the country. In fact, if I had to get up at 4 am to buy produce and set up shop, I might not be too picky about labels, either ... but it might be nice for once, to buy grammatically correct veg without apostrophes crawling all over everything.

There is, however, always the apocryphal to tip the balance. In one fruitshop in a northern English town that I frequent, one sign read "orbargene's" - so outlandish, I had to examine the deep purple, fleshy fruits before recognising the alternative spelling of "aubergine" (not to mention the ubiquitous apostrophe). Bristling, I determined to take the man to task!! He couldn't describe his own merchandise correctly - and my inner, sanctimonious pedant was straining at the leash.

When he put in an appearance, he beamed and spoke to me, lovingly, of his produce - wanting, very much, for me to be as enamoured as he was. Completely disarmed, I spent more than I intended, and now buy most of my greengroceries from him - apostrophes notwithstanding.


Street Talk

BIS_Coach  

Great article. Thoroughly enjoyed it. A really clear explanation that should be given to all teachers! I taught basic skills for many years and it's clear that many people have never been taught how to use apostrophes correctly.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Thank you, I like to gather kindred spirits!! Certainty in grammar gives amazing confidence to people to express themselves - beyond the fruit shop, I mean!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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