It’s just one blow after another, isn’t it? First, in a moment of madness, Britain votes to leave the European Union. Next, the most corrupt political party in the history of this blog, namely the “Partido Popular”, an oxymoron if ever there were one, gains 14 seats – yes, gains!! – in the Spanish general election. Then, finally, as if that weren’t all bad enough, England has just been knocked out of the UEFA Euro 2016 by mighty Iceland.
Don’t you just wish we could turn the clock back a week and try again?
Come to think of it, can we make that fifty years? For what it’s worth, I’ve started an online petition demanding a rematch with Iceland, though I don’t hold out much hope.
Indeed, there is only one thing that distresses me more right now than this catastrophic chain of events. Yes, you guessed, it’s people’s stubborn refusal to use apostrophes correctly despite my rants over the years on this topic. It seems like only yesterday when I exploded for the first, but unfortunately not the last, time:
[July 2011] “I can’t stand it anymore. My blood boils every time I see them: the five most abused, misused and misspelt words in the English sandwich. Er, language, sorry. OK, here goes ...
5. its / it’s / its’
Its refers to possession and means “of it”.
It’s is a contracted form of It is or It has.
Its’ is not an English word and means nothing.
Wrong: *Its important to know its’ meaning.
Right: It’s important to know its meaning.
4. your / you’re
Your does not mean you are.
Your refers to possession and means it is yours.
You’re is a contracted form of You are.
Wrong: *Your you’re own worst enemy.
Right: You’re your own worst enemy.
3. their / there / they’re
Neither their nor there means they are.
Their refers to possession and means it is theirs.
There refers to location and means it is not here.
They’re is a contracted form of They are.
Wrong: *There over their waiting for they’re instructions.
Right: They’re over there waiting for their instructions.
2. who’s / whose
Who’s is a contracted form of Who is or Who has.
Whose refers to possession and means “of whom”.
Wrong: *Who’s mistake is this? Whose interested?
Right: Whose mistake is this? Who’s interested?
We do not use ’s to form plurals. Well, I don’t, let’s say.
The apostrophe + s has three uses:
contraction of is e.g. It’s easy!
contraction of has e.g. He’s learnt it!
possession e.g. Is that John’s son?
However, we do not use ’s to form plurals; we use s (no apostrophe).
Wrong: *All monkey’s love banana’s.
Right: All monkeys love bananas.
If the noun ends in consonant + y, we must use ies (but still no apostrophe).
Wrong: *Many family’s are having difficulty’s feeding their monkey’s.
Right: Many families are having difficulties feeding their monkeys.
So, if you’d like to make me happy, next time please, please spell it right. And, by the same token, if you want to carry on annoying me, I’ve handed it to you on a plate now, haven’t I?”
‘Put a bleeding sock in it, Mike!’ I hear you saying. I would if I could, believe me, but I’ve developed this horrendous ‘gift’ over the years of spotting glaring grammatical mistakes from a mile off. So, when multimillionaire authors – or multimillionaire authors’ editors – who really should know better write, “You’re timing is great, McDeere” (John Grisham, The Firm) or “Lot’s of people die when there’s a war on” (Anthony Grey, Saigon), my eyes pop out of their sockets, my skin breaks into a sweat, and my kids want to know when their dinner will be ready.
‘I’m sending you to Coventry.’
Colin had never used two exclamation marks in his life, but there was a time and a place for everything. Now was the time, and Coventry was the place.
‘Er, any chance of Stratford?’
‘You can’t send me to Coventry against my willy, Miss Slapper.’
But she could … And she would.
dayrealing, Chapter 30, “Laughing Stock”