The Compulsive Copyeditor

June 29, 2009

It’s . . . [UPDATED]

Filed under: language degenerating,language evolving — amba12 @ 7:14 pm
Tags: , ,

on its way to becoming standard English in “it’s” other meaning:  the possessive of the pronoun “it.”

Why?  Because it makes sense.  I am well trained in the old school, so the apostrophe is a little thorn in my flesh every time I see it — I jump as if it has pricked me — but I tell myself I’ve got to get over it.  ‘s is the possessive form for nouns and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be for the neuter pronoun.  (Just so it doesn’t become a slippery slope to “her’s” and even, God forbid, “hi’s”!)  The fact that it’s the same as the contraction for “it is” should pose no problem.  After all, we can see or hear the word “head” and know from context whether it refers to the thing above your shoulders or the toilet on a boat.

So, you see, I am correct yet broad-minded.  This, however (from an e-mail I received today), is too much.  It makes no sense at all:

Thank you for talking so openly about this issue. It’s definitely something that get’s overlooked and pushed aside . . .

[and the very next day:] There are ton’s of websites and groups dedicated to . . .

It’s as if apostrophes are manic little stickers, seed burrs that enthusiastically attach themselves to your pants cuffs if you give them half a chance.  Wherever they see a terminal S, they indiscriminately latch on.

(I’ll try to scan for you my cartoon of the German word “Umlaut” — which itself, ironically, sports no umlauts — getting attacked by a buzzing swarm of umlauts and being left with one on each vowel.)

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4 Comments »

  1. OK, so I’m laughing at you. I admit it. Not for getting pricked by apostrophes (I do too) but by the compulsive copyeditor/blogger/communicator. What on earth did you DO before the Internet?

    Comment by Janet — June 29, 2009 @ 7:33 pm | Reply

    • Well, I used to have other ways of getting out of the house.

      This is a category of things about which I often have precise and cranky thoughts, so rather than (or as well as?) inflict them on their long-suffering provokers, I might as well make a place to stash and share them.

      Comment by amba12 — June 30, 2009 @ 12:20 am | Reply

      • You go ahead. I’ll not only listen, I’ll commiserate. Apostrophes are big offenders. It would help if the basic rules were more consistent, but still. I learned the difference between its and it’s in Grade 2. This is not rocket science.

        Comment by Janet — July 1, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  2. I am of the REALLY old school. I like the separation that the apostrophe implies: don’t=do not; isn’t=is not; it’s=it is. It’s really a kind of shorthand notation. Keep going, Amba!

    Comment by Mom — June 30, 2009 @ 2:01 am | Reply


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