‘S’ approaching

Straight up; I’m something of a diligent grammarian. A language Nazi. A pedant. Not in the ‘fuck you how dare you split infinitives’ mould, but am more of the ‘please please please don’t use “impact” as a verb’ variety.

What I’m really trying to say by this is that I understand that I have a problem. The only thing I find more infuriating than people referring to a relaxed and calm individual as ‘nonplussed’ is the fact that I desperately want to consider myself a ‘descriptivist’ in the long tradition of the language wars that take place in ridiculously pretentious magazines.

I understand that if someone says that “the carbon tax will impact upon families, otters and unicorns equally on 1 July”, people know exactly what Tony Abbott means and that it is stupid irrespective of the malapropism.

Likewise, I’m surprisingly OK with txt spk. Aside from the fact that Prince has been rocking that shit since 1984. Everyone knows what it means, and it ceases 2 b usfl wen ppl can’t read it.

So reconciling these conflicting feelings is difficult. I’m certain I’m not the only one out there. I am also aware that this post alone no doubt contains a multitude of minor errors that would raise the hackles of those even more pedantic than I.

But there is one point that I think rests as a universally acknowledged failing. Misplaced apostrophes. Not necessarily because an apostrophe crime conceals a word or sentence’s intended meaning, but because it demonstrates, accurately or not, that the author is an idiot. And to my mind, there is no better, clearer and more satisfying indicator. Take, as exhibits A through Z, some comments from the ever-helpful @boltcomments:

An apostrophe is not intended to signal an approaching ‘s’, yet the bile spewed by the most idiotic, unbalanced and hateful is replete with this seminal error.

And this is why we must stand for correct language, I have decided. Attempting to write correctly means learning to think correctly; that is, considering how a sentence will read before writing it works in much the same manner as considering whether a thought is reasonable before saying it.

The worst among us tend to have the worst written language. The apostrophe could be the saviour. Make errant punctuation the mark of a feeble mind, and perhaps those minds will start to work a bit harder.

If, like me, you find this kind of thing unhealthily enjoyable, you’ll certainly love this grammar quiz from the Wall Street Journal. I missed one – bloody ‘he and I/me’ always gets me.