Re: Miss Grundy's Classroom Leo Gorcey, the actor in the hat, played "Slip" Mahoney in the Bowery Boys series of films. His character spoke almost completely in malapropisms, but because he was so "eloquent", he was the brains of his little outfit.
"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." - Bullwinkle Moose
It was altogether an impressive undertaking. But while Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein reminded us that “people are not always who they appear on the Internet,” maybe we should have known. It wouldn’t have taken the FBI: A fastidious English major could have seen the Russians’ inexplicable capitalizations, stiff sentences, and missing articles.
One political ad placed online by the Russians apparently read, “Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is.” Just a Satan, not the? Is there a class of Satans of which Hillary was just one example? If so, why capitalize the S? If this sounds like a tedious debate to you, then you would likely not be the grammarian this country needs.
In one email to a Trump campaign official, a disguised Russian agent reportedly wrote: “We gained a huge lot of followers and decided to somehow help Mr. Trump get elected.” Is a huge lot a Walmart-size amount? Costco? Not to mention the awkwardly deployed somehow.
As noted in the Washington Post last year, “A revealing characteristic of the Russian language, the absence of the definite and indefinite article, is evident in statements such as ‘out of cemetery’ and ‘burqa is a security risk.’ ” But, the article goes on to say, these mistakes are harder to take notice of given how sloppily written the average social media discourse is.
What this implies is that we were wrong to ever let it become uncool to fixate on bad grammar and slack syntax, no matter what the venue. It may be that sophists point out errant apostrophes while philosophers argue on the merits, but the not-so-good English that may have swayed an election should vindicate the grammar scolds among us. So scold on, pedants: It’s not just good again to pay attention to sentence fragments and dangling participles—it’s patriotic.
End the apostrophe? I demand an end to the apostrophe
Tuesday 6 June 2000
The favourite for the Derby this Saturday is called King's Best. The 2,000 Guineas was won by Kings Best. This is the same animal. After much discussion, involving everyone except the horse, it was decided that the omission of the apostrophe was an error and that it should be inserted before the animal could be considered fit to grace the turf at Epsom.
This represents a rare triumph for the grammarians, going along with the decision of J Sainsbury to rebrand their stores as Sainsbury's rather than Sainsburys. And a fat lot of good that's done, judging by their current profits, which appear to be inferior to those of Barclays, Lloyds, Mothers Pride, Selfridges, Diners Club, Debenhams, Dixons and all the other apostrophe-free zones.
This is widely presumed to be the fault of modern education, which is far more concerned with genitals than genitives. Children are taught about the "comma in the air" (which I thought was a type of butterfly).
It is an ancient problem. "One not uncommonly sees outside an inn," complained the Dean of Canterbury in 1864, "that fly's and gig's are to be let. In a country town blessed with more than one railway, I have seen an omnibus with 'Railway Station's' painted in emblazonry on its side."
The apostrophe was introduced from France (like rabies), in the mid-16th century, and has caused nothing but trouble ever since. Its original function, according to a manuscript of 1551, was "taking away a voel sound at the end of a word, by the convenience of the following voel beginning another word". The example given was "writ th'articles plaine t'understand", which is what we always strive to do on the Guardian.
Shakespeare (or his printers) was all over the shop with his apostrophes, and the Authorised Version had "my mothers house". Swift and Addison hated the habit of using the apostrophe to shorten what Addison called the preterperfect tense: "drown'd, walk'd, arriv'd, for drowned, walked, arrived, which has very much disfigured the tongue and a tenth part of our smoothest words into so many clusters of consonants".
It was the late 17th century before any regularity came into the apostrophe's use in the genitive singular. Confusion reigned then as now about the genitive plural. And place names were and are shambolic: St Albans, St Neots and Golders Green, but St John's Wood, Pratt's Bottom and Land's End (further confused by the clothing company, Lands' End). Earl's Court is next to Barons Court. And what about singular names ending with an "s"? Do they take an extra "s" or not?
"Greek names with more than one syllable are always written with an apostrophe alone when they end with a s word: Socrates' teaching, Xerxes' expeditions," Sir Ernest Gowers ordained in 1946. Why? Was this a dying wish? "Crito, I owe a cock to Aesculapius. Get it sorted, and, by the way, make sure no one ever spells my name with an extra s after the apostrophe."
What's the point of it all? The rules governing the apostrophe are incoherent, illogical and of dubious provenance.
Bernard Shaw had the answer 100 years ago. Do away with the apostrophe. It serves no purpose. Someone will argue that it is necessary to distinguish between words that otherwise have the same spelling. But this is complete can't, and I wont have it. The sense of the sentence will always provide the necessary meaning.
Teachers and children would no longer have to worry about the wretched thing. Guardian sub-editors could coast through the day. Greengrocers, if they did dare use an apostrophe, would be prosecuted. This threat worked to force them away from pounds and ounces.