Friday, January 18, 2008


I originally entitled this post "Idiots," but then I saw I had one with that title last month. What can I say? I hate idiots. So I'll re-title this one as "Morons."

Today there are two types of idiots I want to talk about: celebrity idiots and every-day idiots.

Atop the celebrity idiot list today is Britney Spears, who, evidently, is expected to go toes-up soon. What can you really say about this without appearing callous? I think it was kind of tactless of the AP to talk about this, but the AP is nearly as tactless as Reuters (the press relations wing of Hezbollah).

Second type of idiot: you and everyone you know. Specifically, when you throw out apostrophes like panties at a Tom Jones concert. They don’t just exist to add some flare to your spelling. Ima’gine if I just s’tarted using apostro’phes the way some of y’o’u do. It would be annoying.

Apostrophes exist for two reasons: to show where missing letters should be, or to show possession. They are never used to show plurality. Also, possession and plurality are not the same thing, nor do they factor each other out.

Let’s say your name is Parks. If you own something, it is Parks’s, which is pronounced “Parks-es.” If you and your family send out a letter, it came from the Parkses, which is also pronounced “parks-es.” If you and your family own something, it is the Parkses’, which is also pronounced “parks-es.”

Most Americans think with a name like James that you can say “this is James’ book.” You can say that, if you want to be an idiot. If you want to be a normal person, however, you realize that your name happening to end with an S-noise does not negate the rules of grammar.

“Oh, but when I write James’ book, I am using the apostrophe to show I am leaving off the last S,” you say. “You’re a fool,” I reply.

I had a high school text book that said you didn’t need an apostrophe with names such as Rodriguez or Hendrix. This is why they shouldn’t let idiots write textbooks.

If you really want to be an exception, you should select a name from antiquity, such as Moses, Jesus, Socrates, Archimedes, or Xerxes, which are all acceptably made possessive with just an apostrophe.

This “rule” is probably “broken” nearly as often as the “other” rule no one “obeys”: that governing the “use” of “quotation” marks. In that previous sentence the last use of quotation marks was acceptable because I was making ironic reference to the way they are used for reasons other than quotations. They are called “quotation marks,” not “important word marks” or “stressed syllable marks.” They only are used to quote something. In the case of irony, you are quoting the word for ironic effect, using someone else’s word in a way you know is different from the intended meaning.

I don’t want to have to review this again.

In closing: Britney Jean Spears (1981-2008) R.I.P.

1 comment:

Cristin Lassen said...

Isn't your wife an English major? What does she have to say about all this?

While I don't claim to have perfect grammar, I disagree with your apostrophe rules.

If your name is James, it really is written James' book. You're probably going to say the people that run this website are idiots. Or should I say id'o'ts?

Next thing: This is one of my favorite blogs -