Home > Musings on Life in General > To apostrophe or not to apostrophe

To apostrophe or not to apostrophe

On the left, an apostrophe. On the right, an apostrophe as it should often be seen - absent.

I don’t usually write on the use of the English language. This is mainly because I’m worried that I’ll make exactly the same mistake in my post that I’m complaining about. Now, that would be ironic.

However, I walked into a major supermarket on Monday (October 31st – Halloween) and was confronted by the following sign:

“In the interests of security, please remove any Halloween mask’s.”

Note the apostrophe. Now, why is that there? How about:

“In the interests of the English language, please get someone who paid attention at school to write your signs.”

“Masks” is a normal plural noun. It doesn’t need an apostrophe, but this is one of the most common mistakes, probably second only to the “its/it’s” confusion, which is almost understandable since it doesn’t follow the rules.

I was tempted to point it out, but knowing my luck I’d be talking to the person who wrote the sign and they’d relieve me of my trolley, put my picture on the “banned from this store” wall and politely ask me to go away.

The “plural noun apostrophe” debacle even has a special name – it’s often called the “butcher’s apostrophe” or “greengrocer’s apostrophe”. This is due to the number of signs one might see on the high street offering “Three apple’s for a pound” and so on. I don’t necessarily blame the schools – we’re taught this stuff – but practice counts and I don’t think people read enough.

And while I’m on a rant, the Christmas decorations in the shop were up. In October! How can we view Christmas as a “special time” if it lasts for months? I can’t wait for the Boxing Day sales so I can get my Easter eggs in. Humph.

So, in the spirit of a very early Christmas and apostrophe hell,

“Merry Christma’s everyone! I hope you get lots’ of present’s!”

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