Category Archives: apostrophe s

It’s Not a Foolish Question: A Day Belonging to Fools or a Day for Fools?

Yesterday was April Fool’s Day, and I felt like the biggest fool of them all. Well, I felt more unlucky than foolish: I lost Internet access, and then my laptop died.  It was a cosmic April Fool’s Day prank.

But yesterday reminded me of the variations (and ensuing debates!) I often see in the spelling of such days as April Fool’s. The usual suspects are April Fools’ Day (more than one fool) and April Fools Day (Fools as an adjective).

According to CP Style, the following spellings are correct:

April Fool’s Day

Mother’s Day

Father’s Day

The use of the singular possessive is convention more than anything else — using the plural possessive (Mothers’ Day) would be equally correct.

If you despise the singular possessive being used in this way, you’re not alone. Many people feel that these are days to celebrate all fools and moms and dads — plural, not singular.

According to Wikipedia, Anna Jarvis is the person to blame — at least for Mother’s Day. As the day’s founder, she trademarked “Mother’s Day” because she felt the day should be commemorated by every family celebrating its own unique mother. The use of the singular possessive for Father’s Day and April Fool’s Day is probably for the sake of consistency.

What about forgoing the apostrophe altogether: April Fools Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day. Without the apostrophe, Fools and Mothers and Fathers become adjectives, modifying day. This would mean that the days don’t belong to the fools, mothers, and fathers, but rather that the days are for these groups. See the subtle difference? CMOS admits this difference “is sometimes fuzzy” and omits the apostrophe only in proper names without an apostrophe (usually corporate names like Publishers Weekly) or where it is clear that the meaning is not possessive.

So when in doubt, keep the apostrophe: girls’ washroom. And for you singular possessive naysayers, try to enjoy Mother’s Day anyway.

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The Apostrophe Catastrophe

The apostrophe is everywhere lately — literally. I’ve complained before about its incorrect usage, and I’m certainly not alone.

In yesterday’s Post, Robert Fulford writes about the misunderstood apostrophe, and he describes vigilante editors who take it upon themselves to make corrections to all the signs with the added apostrophes: Cd’s, Record’s, Dvd’s!

The apostrophe also came up on a recent discussion board for freelancers. An editor was called out for her use of the apostrophe in a sentence similar to the following: “I hope things go well at your parents’, and I hope you get good news at the solicitor’s.” But her critic was wrong. These apostrophes are correct because she’s referring to the parents’ house and to the solicitor’s office.

This blog needs a shot of colour, so here’s a spring photo with an accompanying sentence with as many correct apostrophes and plurals as I could manage.

Flowers 001Flowers 002

My neighbours’ property has a beautiful tree. The tree’s beautiful colour is my heart’s joy. My neighbours know I like the tree, and they have offered me one of the tree’s clippings. But I declined my neighbours’ offer. The tree, the tree’s leaves and flowers, and the leaves and flowers’ heartwarming colour should remain undisturbed by the likes of me.

(Note that in the last sentence above, leaves and flowers share a possession: colour. When this is the case, the apostrophe is used with only the second possessor.)

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Like Shootin’ Fish in a Barrel

I’ve been searching for errors on storefront signs around the city. Today there was no shortage of offenders. The most common errors were as you might expect:

  • An apostrophe s where none is needed (or vice versa):
They should have stopped at "Art."

They should have stopped at Art.

Are the materials for artists (no apostrophe), or do the materials belong to artists (apostrophe)? No apostrophe is needed here. Better: Rename the store Art Materials. Best: Artists R Us.

  • A plural form where none is needed (or a singular where a plural is needed):
Fruits, anyone?

They’re selling the fruits of their labour, perhaps?

Where's the s?

With a logo this unforgettable, who needs the s?

  • An adjective used as a noun (or vice versa):
An improvement: Improve Your English

Improve Your English, will ya.

The above sign is around the corner from my house and has bothered me for years. My vote would be to go with “Improve Your English.” English-speaking (with a hyphen) is an adjective, not a noun. Alternatives could include “Improve Your Spoken English” or “Improve Your Conversational English.” Drop one of the frees and omit the ESL, and I can walk past without the snicker.

  • The use of American spellings:
In Canada, it's "centre."

In Canada, it’s “centre.”

In Canada, we "flavour" our food.

We Canucks “flavour” our food.

  • Inconsistent capitalization (and spacing and order, in this instance):
"Manufacturer & Wholesaler of Sportswear, souvenirs,  smoking & Fashion Accessories

“Manufacturer & Wholesaler _of Sportswear, souvenirs, _smoking & Fashion Accessories”

Speaking of inconsistency, I’m bestowing an award on today’s most inconsistently spelled word. Congratulations, jewellery

  • Creative (read: incorrect) spellings:
Their coconut buns are the driest in the city -- guaranteed!

Their coconut buns are the driest in the city — guaranteed!

Get Jean's drape before anyone else snags it!

Get Jean’s drape before anyone else snags it!

Of all the ways jewels could be misspelled, I never would have guessed this.

Of all the signs in all the world, jewells had to walk onto mine.

And yes, this is a menu item, not the last name of the owner.

And yes, this is a menu item, not the last name of the owner.

On offer: purse, scarfs and wallet

On offer: purse, scarfs, and wallet

Git yur backpack, belt, and souvener here.

Git yur backpack, belt, and souvener here.

Takeout was consistently spelled take-out. This was unusual in its incorrectness.

Takeout was consistently spelled take-out. This sign was unusual in its incorrectness: take out as two words.

There were lots of signs that used E- in the text: “E-style haircut.” Really? Is this some kind of fashion I’m unaware of, because variations on this were everywhere (and e-tea, anyone?).

Lots of signs were just plain confusing:

VCD? Am I late to the tech revolution again?!

VCD? Am I late to the tech revolution again?!

The most disappointing mistake was from one of the big banks:

Transfer in?

Transfer in?

Best business name of the day goes to Hair Do. Worst business name is a tie between On Care (not call) Pharmacy and this travesty:

Is that French?

Is that French?

Here’s the absolute worst sign of the day:

This one needs a team of editors.

This one needs a team of editors.

To end on a bright note, here’s a sign that could have gone wrong in so many ways but didn’t:

Nice!

Nice — no apostrophes!

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