The Misunderstood Apostrophe and Other Offenses Against Grammar

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a grammar Nazi; I just can’t help it. I went to college and got my teaching degree in English education, but I never did become an English teacher. However, I learned enough to be an annoying know-it-all about grammar and usage.

It drives me nuts to see these two offenses against good grammar: 1) the misuse of apostrophes, and 2) misspellings. (C’mon—so many people are on SmartPhones; how hard is it to look up the correct spelling?)

Note: this is why I despise Twitter and all its ilk. You are only allowed so many letters, so tech-speak has become the norm. Example: “whar u at?” It makes me shudder.

I was driving behind a van the other day that had a cute saying painted on the back: “Cat’s Rule, and Dog’s Drool.”

I literally screamed in my car: “Do you mean *PLURAL or POSSESSIVE?!?” It should have read: “Cats Rule and Dogs Drool” (NO apostrophes) because I believe that this was what the owners of the vehicle meant—except that whoever they hired to paint the slogan just didn’t know any better. (And obviously the owners didn’t, either, if they paid for it.)

My extreme fussiness about such things has gotten so bad that I recently woke up from a dream in which I drove by a house with a sign out front reading “Resume’s.” What woke me up was the dream car crash I had because I wasn’t looking where I was going.

I have also seen business vehicles sporting some grave misspellings as well. One such vehicle proclaimed in heavy black letters on the back window: “We want your buisness!” I believe they meant “business.” When I see that, I wonder just how good their services are…..if they missed that misspelled word, what else might they miss when trying to get your buisness?

So, really, does all this matter? Should we old grammar cranks and ex-English teachers keep fighting the good fight to keep grammar and spelling correct? Or do we just meekly bow to this new technology that teaches everyone that correct spelling and grammar no longer have a place in our society?

No, no, and NO! As for me, I will continue to be the grammatical pain in the butt I have always been. Those who care about these things and who strive to keep teaching proper English and usage will agree that speaking well still matters. Are we intelligent people who at least have a smattering of good education, or will we all be speaking “street” by the end of this decade?

If we continue to be lackadaisical about these things, we will be viewed as ignorant troglodytes by the rest of the world. So, does this matter? Yes, actually, it does.

When we speak ignorantly, we come across as ignorant—like it or not, that’s how it works. What we hear affects how we think; right or wrong. (Sorry, folks who may be offended, but that’s how our ancient alligator brains work.) I’m sure that there are many schools of thought about this and how much proper English and grammar matter in this brave new technology-based world.

But as for me and all my other grammatical cranks and know-it-alls out there, I think it does matter. This and manners and etiquette may be going the way of the dodo bird, but as for me, I am going to keep griping about all this as long as I have breath enough to criticize.

*Here’s a simple test to see if you need an apostrophe or not: ask yourself if you mean something is plural or possessive. Plural means ‘more than one,’ such as ‘cats.’ Possessive means ‘belonging to something/someone,’ such as “that is the cat’s blanket.”

Example: Plural: “There were a lot of cats on the bed.”

Example: Possessive: “Where is the cat’s blanket?”