For Wednesday, May 4, 2016:
FYI: the editor is on a rant today. Proceed at your apostrophes’ own risk!
What is it about apostrophes that gives so many people so much trouble? You’d think a little upside down comma would be easy to figure out.
Okay, Genie – calm down. Those upside down commas are for other people like Xs and Ys were for you in algebra. Remember you got out of those classes by the skin of your teeth, and that was only with the promise that you’d never pursue anything that required math in college. Otherwise you’d still be in high school, for crying out loud! Be patient.
You’re right. I know. It’s not so much about the written words that should have or not have apostrophes, though. I can edit those in or out. Now there’s a new thing. Now TV journalists are pronouncing – yes, pronouncing – certain apostrophes. To be more accurate, they’re adding a syllable that shouldn’t follow an apostrophe, and it’s driving me crazy.
You’ll have to explain …
Well, you may be aware that one of the candidates in the U. S. presidential race has an ‘s’ at the end of his surname.
Right. Bernie Sanders.
Yes! One particular commentator now adds an extra syllable when she talks about his campaign in the possessive. For example, she’ll say something like “Bernie Sanders’s path to victory …” or “Bernie Sanders’s advisors told us …”
What’s wrong with that?
It’s wrong – both in writing and in speech – because the apostrophe at the end shows possession and is all that’s needed in this case. The written version is “Bernie Sanders’ path to victory …” and “Bernie Sanders’ advisors told us …”. There is no extra ‘s,’ and one should not be pronounced in speech.
It’s just one commentator, though. You don’t need to get so riled up about one person, Genie.
That’s the thing – it’s not just one person anymore! Already, in just the few months since she started doing this extra syllable thing with Sanders’ name, other commentators – and now even most of the reporters on the road – are doing the same thing. They didn’t before. Perhaps they think she must know what she’s doing because she has a Ph.D. and is a Rhodes scholar. In this case she doesn’t. But it’s catching on among her colleagues like the horrible colds they all share eventually, which means more and more of her listeners will start doing the same thing – if they haven’t already – and this blatant error will grow exponentially among the general public. I can’t bear the thought!
So what’s the worst that can happen? Civilization as we know it won’t come crashing down on our heads. Besides, it’s not like people use semi-colons wrong.
Oh, they do. Not everyone, of course. But we can’t hear incorrect semi-colons if something is read aloud, even if they do start to grow like a biblical plague …
If hearing the mistake is the issue, then, you can always … you know … turn off the TV.
Maybe it will help if I write a letter …
To Bernie Sanders’ commentators and reporters.
That’s a lot of letters.
That’s what I’ve been saying!
Well, while you’re at it, you might say something about the overuse of ellipses. Just sayin’ …
(NB: That story at the top about algebra and me is true. Maybe if they’d let me graduate from high school without that promise I’d be a naturalist now, not an editor, and I wouldn’t be on such a rant. It’s all their fault …)