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October 04, 2010


Dear Mister Language Person: What is the purpose of the apostrophe?

A. The apostrophe is used mainly in hand-lettered small-business signs to alert the reader that an "S" is coming up at the end of a word, as in: WE DO NOT EXCEPT PERSONAL CHECK'S, or: NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ITEM'S.


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The apostrophe can also used to indicate posession, or lack thereof, to wit: "Grammar. I ain't got none."

This is also most often seen on hand-lettered small business signs, and the occasional rural church roadside advertisement.

It just transpire(d) that I finally understood some of The Dave's writings ... sorta.

*goes back to bed*

I'll be going on a trip through rural America soon and will be on the lookout for small business and church signs reading "Grammar. I ain't got none."

... should be interesting.

Mmmmm. So I've been using it incorrectly all these years. I wonder why I need to be alerted to the fact that an "S" is coming up.Since when did this persecution of esses raise its ugly head.

Very few questions are written about the apostrophe, simply because you're smart enough to know how to spell it, you're smart enough to know how to use it.

Where in the world did such a teeny mark get the cojones to have such a long goofy name?

Oh dear! Kibby didn't close italics.

My son just received his practice SAT results the other day, and he and a friend were discussing their results. The friend's feedback on the verbal portion included, "Watch for inappropriate apostrophes." She asked my son, "What's an app-oh-strofe?" (Emphasis on the first syllable with a short a, and long o sounds.)

Bad Kibby. Bad.

There are no apostrophes on highway signs. Even ones for the exits to places that should have them. Like Tyson's Corner VA, which VDOT thinks is Tysons Corner.

I wonder how many Tysons are in that corner?

The link redirects here.

wiredog - my dad retired from the NYS DOT. I once asked him that very question, but all I got was some grumbling about 'budget cuts' and bunch of curse words. Interestingly enough, NONE of the curse words had apostrophes in them.

"[William] Tyson, a Maryland native, was born about 1818. He and his wife Susan (nee Harvey) Tyson had nine children: Catherine, Lydia, Rebecca, Frances, Andrew, Anna, Harvey, Bessie, and Susan."

So at least 11.

All 11 had to share one corner? Ick. Like Octomom's garage.

i saw octomom's garage open for luscious jackson in '94.

I got these pictures in Tyson's Corner on Saturday. Lots of room there...

The apostrophe before the "s" clearly has biblical roots. It's (see?) to warn people that a snake-shaped letter is coming up.

Mister Language Person - how does it feel to have your columns classified as "vintage"?

We need a sarcasm font.

According to the MLP's article, the 'Steve's biblical claim 'should be:

The apo'strophe before the "s" clearly ha's biblical root's. It's ('see?) to warn people that a 'snake-'shaped letter i's coming up.

Just 'sayin'...

The blog itself is the font of sarcasm, bon

Now I get it.

I sure hope nursecindy gets it. And I mean that in the best possible way. ;p

wiredog, I've lived and worked in Tysons Corner for almost 18 years, and it's always been my impression that the apostrophe-free spelling is the correct one. Google Maps agrees, and googling in general seems to confirm that. Can't rely on the Postal Service on this, though, as they don't accept it with either spelling.

I grew up in McLean, and locals have always known that it was Tyson's Corner.

But that was long ago, when Tysons II was a gravel pit where we went 4-wheeling. In Ye Olde Days when farmer's kids went to Langley High School.

Corrected title, "Tip's for writer's."

(Corrected copy)

A. The apostrophe is used mainly in hand-lettered small-busines's sign's to alert the reader that an "S" is coming up at the end of a word, a's in: WE DO NOT EXCEPT PERSONAL CHECK'S, or: NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ITEM'S.

wiredog -- I grew up in Olney, MD, which was sort of like the anti-matter Tyson's Corner.

Do they still play chicken in Tysons Coroner?

I get it, Annie. Finally!

Also, in those places that haven't changed to a hand, the pedestrian signs say DONT WALK without an apostrophe.

wiredog, look's like they're tran'spiring to expand that corner...

That's all I got.

Baron, I 'stand corrected.
Thank you.

That's interesting, wiredog. So, maybe it was "Tysons Corner" or "Tysons II" aka "Tysons Galleria" that caused everyone (except the natives) to go with that spelling, including the map people? Or can you point to some other cause?

Cindy, yes, you could say that. They are simultaneously putting in an above-ground subway (there's an oxymoron for you) line and widening the Capitol Beltway. What fun.

I still want to know why many intelligent people don't know the difference between it's and its. Sorry, personal pet peeve.

Its simple -- you use an apostrophe to indicate ellipsis or possession, as in "Cousin It's gonna' be pissed, so its time to simplify English and use comma,s instead of apostrothingy,s."

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