I was recently picked up on my use of apostrophe’s by a loved one, who I should add is also far wiser than me (not a towering achievement, I know). I’m not saying shes’ better than me at everything but if they ever send those letter’s out offering a place in a nuclear bunker because their hard work and brain power will benefit a post apocalyptic society then she’ll be much more likely to get one. Though having said that shes’ also bright enough to figure out it would be better to go with the bomb than to bother with whats left after it. Shes’ also sharp enough to know that I am using apostrophe’s as badly as possibly (or not at all); not to annoy her but because Im starting to think that apostrophes are basically useless. Whether they were in the right place or not in this paragraph, it really would’nt make any difference whatsoever. You can still understand what I mean.
I don’t have the time to look up which sweaty, nit picking pedant invented the apostrophe, but if they knocked on my door right now I’d shoot them through it. Several times. The English language is littered with all kinds of pretty useless punctuation (not to mention words) though none seems quite as awkward and vain as the apostrophe. But we’ll come back to the little fucker in a few minutes as we investigate some of the others. Just how often, for instance, are you supposed to use a comma? I tend to overuse them, or at least I think I do. But the problem is, that while I may think I overuse them, I might, in fact, be wrong, and in that case I am doing quite the opposite, and not using them enough. Surely there are many more challenging things to face in life than trying to establish whether you’ve used enough commas. The bottom line is that I shall continue to overuse commas, or rather think that I do, in which case there is always a 33.3% chance that I am using too many, too few or just the right amount. It shan’t bother me one bit. Well, a tiny bit, but not enough to lose me sleep.
Flicking through The Penguin Guide To Punctuation (possibly the most pedantic book ever written) we come across all sorts of funny little dashes, dots and squiggles. The colon: a punctuation mark named after a part of the body that is quite literally full of shit. Or was it the other way round? I may never live long enough to start caring. The semi colon; which seems to exist so you can tack another sentence onto the end of a sentence without simply using a full stop and then writing another sentence. Good to know we have the semi colon; it could really come in handy in a crisis. Then we have daft things like the ellipsis…….which isn’t much more than a way of filling a space where something ought to be with some dots and hoping no-one will notice, the slash / (or the less popular \, which was invented to make computers even more complicated) and a range of diacritics, which spend most of their time in France and help us to understand that simple words can be said in a multitude of stupid ways and that other words have testicles. There are also at least two types of brackets: square brackets, which have been given a sensible name, and round brackets, which are known within the twat community as parentheses.
The list goes on (just don’t forget to use a colon before you start), as does the stupidity. There are two types of inverted commas, the single and the double, but since different languages have different rules about their use there may as well be none at all. To see exactly how much we really need inverted commas simply read a Cormac McCarthy novel and you’ll see that the answer is ‘not really that much at all’ (except for just there, where they proved to be quite useful). And speaking of answers we find a punctuation mark that if anything is even more redundant that the apostrophe. I’m racking my brains here but genuinely struggling to think of a question that needs a question mark at the end of it. Can you. There’s my point. If I remove the question mark from this: are you still reading this – does it become somehow less obviously a question. No, of course it doesn’t. The same goes for the exclamation mark, though with some more obvious exceptions. I have an odd fondness for exclamation marks, though I am heavily resistant to using them when writing. I have no idea why. Interesting fact time:
Q. what’s the only British town with an exclamation mark(?).
A. Nobody gives a fuck!
So, going back to apostrophe’s, I’m not any clearer as to when to use them properly. Sure, I know how contractions work, but thats, sorry thats’, sorry that’s the basic stuff. As for the so called unusual plurals, well wouldn’t it be easier just to accept that they’re unusual and not worry so much about them(?). But it’s the possessives that really screw with your head. Or mine at least. I know that if you want someone to know that someone has something you can use an apostrophe before the ‘s’, as in: Colin’s dark web password or Jenny’s bunions, but when it comes to shit like remembering the buckets of the children it seems to go right over my head. Why would I possibly care about how many children had a bucket or how to describe a shop that sells shoes for ladies(?). I yearn for a world where punctuation is gradually pared back to the very lowest denominators. I’d keep capital letters and full stops I suppose, as a gesture of goodwill. As far as I can see if people get what you’re trying to say by the words that you write then you’ve done the biggest part of your job. But then I got a 2:2 from Portsmouth and not a double 1st from Cambridge, so I would say that. Bloody apostrophe’s!
G B Hewitt. 29.12.2021