I am not a great fan of the apostrophe,
it makes reading prose easier, helps with communication and comprehension. There are many things that make life easier, I do not have to have fondness for them.
I found a couple of friends when reading a book on the alphabet the other day. Michael Rosen in Alphabetical points out a few anomalies such as the missing letter rule.
One purpose of the apostrophe is to indicate missing letter such as in haven’t = have not
Ain’t, however, is given one, even though there is no ai not or any other version, the word is aint, plain and simple, so why the apostrophe?
George Bernard Shaw referred to apostrophes as uncouth bacilli and in Candide he steadfastly wrote dont and cant. He didn’t win his augment on missing letter apostrophes but elsewhere,over recent years, the possessive use for street names is vanishing as in St Johns Road. I have heard many a heated argument against this ‘sloppy behaviour’ I think the sloppy will win this one, it has to be easier and cheaper to leave the apostrophe out, and really will the road mind that much?:)
Lewis Carroll of ‘Alice’ fame thought people were wrong to write ‘shan’t’ for ‘shall not’. He tried to persuade that it should correctly be sha’n’t.
David Crystal In The Fight For English argues that people have always and will always make their own choices, the rules are not cement, not million year old rock, they are man made by by printers and academics stating their own preference. Rosen maintains there are no missing letter as such we say ‘shan’t’ because it suits us to say it that way. For those who differ and argue that rules must be followed they ought to be including the ‘ for those extra missing letters!
Along with millions of other children I was confused for a many years with the apostrophe used to mark possession. I got it at the beginning; I could write the dog’s, the cow’s easy peasy, then we come across its.
For goodness sake did they have it in for the children!
Possession, but woe betide small children who with confidence add the apostrophe.
In an instant certainty vanished.
I didn’t know the rules!
Exceptions that are supposed to ‘prove the rule’ just confuse those of us whose brains are wired differently, it is not explained properly obviously judging by how many continue to get it wrong into adult life. Maybe if those printers all those years ago had thought it through properly and worked out that pronouns would make a nonsense of their rule – ours,yours,theirs . . .
I got the hang of ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ by repeating the missing letter rule to myself, however, my confidence was gone on everything else.
When to use that dratted little sign?
I was this way until way into my adult years and retirement, still, even now, when tired or ill or my brain is particularly Dyspraxic the apostrophes vanish and I have to hope for the best. As Widdershins commented here last week in praise of editors, Blessed is my friend from forever/editor.
I really dont get on with these rules:( I do like George Bernard Shaw though.