I have an issue with apostrophes: they’re everywhere. It’s almost impossible to find a pluralized word anywhere these days without seeing an apostrophe pinned to the end of it.
According to the 16-pound dictionary my father gave me many years ago, Page 87 gives a clear and reasonable explanation as to where an apostrophe should be placed.
An apostrophe has two distinct purposes:
l It is used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters. For example, cannot becomes can’t. Two letters have been omitted and the apostrophe is used to indicate this has been done.
l It is used to indicate possession or ownership. The dog’s tail (singular) or the dogs’ tails (plural).
I had for years been under the illusion you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand something as simple as that. But nowadays it seem’s you can’t read or see an advertisement anywhere without noticing an apostrophe dangling near the end of every word ending in the letter S.
As a result, I have come to the conclusion that there must be a surplus of them, that they must be used up at our earliest possible convenience.
Let’s take this another direction, for purpose of illustration.
Math was the four-letter word I dreaded throughout my school years. The difficulty I experienced was that you always had to get the answer right the first time. There are no near misses in mathematics. No second chances.
Two plus two equals four. Not three and three quarters or four and a sixteenth. The correct answer is four. Plain and simple. You either get it right or you get it wrong.
Such is not the case with the English language, however, with its kaleidoscope of possibilities.
Nowadays we can get away with scrawling willy nilly the crudest of literary tripe, and to hell with the consequences. Nowadays we can write as we damn well please and get away with it. No pinpoint accuracy required here.
The prevailing attitude seems to suggest that close is good enough.
A lot of people have obviously concluded that the apostrophe is nothing more than another dog’s breakfast, and who really cares where it fits in word construction?
Have it your way then, I say. Maybe in the end, mathematically challenged people such as myself can get away with less-than-perfect mathematics. Makes sense to me.