The Wordsmythe's Weblog…

…On Words, Love and Life

Archive for the month “September, 2010”

Misplaced apostrophe

I’ve written a few posts about my love for all things language and grammar here and here. Those who know me well, know I’m keen on correctly spoken and properly written grammar. I consider myself a logophile.

This doesn’t mean I always get it right. I don’t know how to pronounce or spell every single word in the English dictionary, besides at the rate new words are added to dictionary these days, it would be nigh on impossible. However I am constantly checking out and learning new words, learning the pronunciation for words which I may never have come across and even for more commonly used words just to make sure I get them right.

I appreciate that my passion is not shared by everyone and I can live with that but it grates on my last nerve when I see common words being misspelled or the apostrophe used wrongly. I am not asking everyone to suddenly become English language professors but it would be nice if we all took the time to understand how punctuation works and use it accordingly.

In this microwave age of instant gratification, everyone’s in a hurry and no one takes the time do anything in its entirety. Technological advancements sometimes rob us of the opportunity and willingness to do things properly.  Writing and spelling are some of the unfortunate victims of this phenomenon.

The introduction of SMS which allows us send short text messages from one mobile device to another inadvertently meant words had to be abbreviated to within an inch of their sometimes rather short lives. The word count limit imposed by the SMS format makes abbreviating almost unavoidable except you choose to be as pedantic as me sometimes and type out full words thereby having to send several text messages to get your point across.

I wouldn’t be writing this post had we all stopped at using these abbreviations for just text messages.

Unfortunately, this peculiarity has spilled over into every form of written (and sometimes spoken) media of communication currently known to man. Newspaper headlines, websites, emails, etc have all fallen foul of following this trend.

Which brings me back to the apostrophe. It has been so misused that most people can’t tell its proper use from wrong usage.  What is it and how and when should it be used? Now if you are one of those people who used to fall asleep during their English lesson, skip this bit. On second thoughts, if you used to fall asleep during your English lesson, you are probably more in need of this mini tutorial, so please read on.

An apostrophe is the superscript sign ( ‘ ) used to indicate the omission of a letter or letters from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations. (Free Online Dictionary)

The apostrophe is used:

  1. To indicate the possessive.
  2. To indicate missing letters.
  3. Sometimes to indicate the structure of unusual words.

Here are a few examples;

  1. The possessive – This is Sarah’s dog
  2. Missing letters – Can’t, don’t, We’d, I’ll
  3. Unusual structure of words – Do’s and don’ts, cross your i’s and dot your t’s, they come in 2’s

I do apologise if I have bored you with that explanation but it was necessary. These days a lot of us are unaware of the rules and usage of the apostrophe so we see more;

Your when it should be you’re – e.g “I hope your fine”

Its when it should be it’s – “Its a lovely day today” and “The dog is wagging it’s tail”

I could go on but I will restrain myself. I could even give examples of other gross crimes perpetrated against grammar but I’ll probably save them for another post.

Please consider the plight of the poor apostrophe; this little and seemingly insignificant punctuation mark with the propensity to change the meanings of words. Be kind to it and use it wisely and correctly.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tara for now.

PS I have tried to go through this post with a fine tooth comb searching for any typos or spelling errors but I often times suffer a bit from literary myopia – being too close to my own writing makes me glaze over certain mistakes. Seeing as this is a piece on grammar, it would just be Sod’s law that there will be a couple of errors that I’ve missed so if you find any, please be kind enough to point them out. Thanks.

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Beauty in the eye of the beholder

I don’t know if it’s me who needs my sight checked or if some people are just good liars!

I go on Facebook quite regularly and I particularly enjoy looking at photographs people put on. Sometimes you can even look at photographs of people who are not your friends as long as a friend of yours has been tagged in or comments on one of them. Some people insist on posting photographs of every event they attend but I don’t complain, it’s their prerogative.

What I have a problem with is when I see a particularly bad photograph of someone and then read the comments like “Beautiful,” “Lovely”, “Oh so pretty” or something equally inane or untrue. I don’t get it; I really don’t. I have to take a second, third and sometimes up to umpteenth look at the photograph to see if I’ve missed something the commentator saw. I even go as far as showing Mo Cushla and asking his candid opinion – his usually mirrors mine, go figure!

At the risk of sounding really nasty even if someone kneed me in the groin, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, slammed me against a wall and held a gun to my head, I’d still be hard pressed to compliment some of the photos.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had some really bad photographs taken of me or shall I say I have not always come out looking like a supermodel but I don’t go posting those photos in the public domain, heaven forbid! Worse still, even if I did, I would hope my friends would have a quiet word in my ear and appeal to my good sense as they gently encourage me not to afflict the public with them rather than laud the monstrosity.

This, to me, is akin to those hapless  X-Factor / American Idol / Britain’s got talent et al contestants who can’t sing to save their lives. When I watch them perform, the first thing that comes to my head is “Their friends and family must be really mean to let them believe they were good enough to perform in front of an audience without really advising them to seek other past times.” The next thing that comes to mind is they probably don’t have any friends or family. Anyway that was a digression but it was necessary to buttress my point.

Please, please, please, if your friends post naff photos of themselves, do not comment except you intend to tell them they look naff in them!

Rant over. Thanks for reading.

Tara for now

Out of the mouths of babes

If you ever want to know what you sound like, forget about recording yourself speak just listen to your children. It’s uncanny how their little brains process and store information but even scarier still is the way they quote you when you least expect it.

My boys are four and two years old and they crack me up. Sometimes I have to turn my face away from them to rearrange my features from a smile and school them into an appropriate telling-off face so they don’t think I’m joking.

EDU, the two-year old, sometimes tells me in an exasperated tone “Mum, you’re giving me a headache”! WEO, his older brother, is quite often heard sighing, “Lord, give me strength.”

Hearing them regurgitate mine and their father’s words every now and again reinforces a home truth to me. Children hardly ever do as you as say but will almost certainly say as you say and do as you do. It makes me realise how strong an influence I wield over them and how responsible I am for how they’ll turn out.

I appreciate that there are innumerable variables that will affect their behaviour however my role as primary care giver accounts for a large percentage of those variables. Since I can’t vouch for any of the variables out there or count on them to deliver the example I would like my boys to follow, the onus lies on me to be the best template of decorum and good behaviour.

I would like my boys to grow into courteous, respectful and respectable young men but if I don’t exhibit any of these traits, pigs might indeed fly. It’s not enough for me to want it, I must model the lifestyle I wish them to lead in my daily dealings with them, their father and everyone around me.

It is an onerous responsibility and definitely no walk in the park so here’s a little ditty I wrote to ask for some divine intervention.

For the grace to raise my child
To be gentle, meek and mild!
For the wisdom to guide him aright
To be bold and strong yet polite
For long-suffering and patience
In the face of an offence
For the capacity to endure
And at the same time reassure
For a sense of humour, the ability to laugh
Yet for misbehaviour, unafraid to wield the staff
For grace to be an example
Upon which he’ll never trample
For eyes that see what’s not shown
A mind to unravel what’s not known
For ears that hear the unspoken
And to deliver promises unbroken
To be fair, just and upright
Never fearing to be forthright
To be firm, consistent not uptight
Unashamed to admit my wrongs outright
Oh Lord please hear my prayer
For I am unaware
Of any other way to be all the above
Without your mercy and love.

So you want to be a writer?

I stumbled across this poem while reading something else online. I’m not sure I wholly agree with everything the writer said but I can appreciate what he means.

What do you think?

So you want to be a writer? by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

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