Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Does This Belong to You?

Whose hair is this?

You are correct. It’s Justin Bieber’s hair.
To show that the hair belongs to Justin Bieber, as you can see, we add an ’s to the end of his name.

Whose head is this?

Wrong! It's not Bruce Willis's; it's Britney Spears's head.

To show that the head belongs to Ms. Spears, we also add an ’s. But because her name ends in an s, if we feel like the pronunciation would be too awkward with the extra s, we have the option to simply add the without the s:

Britney Spears’ head

Whose black coats are melding together?

You are correct. Those are the Olsen twins coats.

Because the coats belong to both twins, we place the apostrophe after the s, which shows that the coats belong to both twins. If we wrote the Olsen twin’s coats, it would incorrectly imply that the coats only belonged to one of the twins.

To illustrate why apostrophe placement is so important, let’s take a walk down Olsen twin lane.

Remember a few years ago when Mary Kate’s struggle with anorexia was all over the tabloids? Imagine that this was a US Weekly magazine headline:

Olsen Twins’ Struggle with Anorexia Intensifies

The apostrophe’s placement suggests that both Olsen twins struggled with anorexia. Because of the tabloid’s strict policy on the integrity of their material, US Weekly would simply be mortified to discover that their tiny punctuation faux pas incorrectly implied Ashley had an eating disorder too.

Well, that’s it for apostrophes. I’m off to read about where Brad and Jennifer are secretly meeting this week.


Anonymous said...

You know Brad is at Jennifers's house while Angies' in Bosnia and Herzegovina...

The Shanner of Attention said...

This is simply fantastic. I think I love you.

kathryn said...

LOVE this post. I don't know if this is true but it seems like this is the most common mistake people make. The other one I often see is the "your taking out the trash". Makes me crazy.

I know that when I'm responding to YOU, I try to make sure everything is dotted and crossed.


Joanna St. James said...

can you blame Brad, I am Team Aniston all the way, I have not enjoyed a Jolie movie since tomb raider

crysy92 said...

This is one of the first things I knew about before I came to the blog!

Janette Dolores said...

I will forever think of the Olsen twins now when considering the proper application of apostrophes and s's! (And if anyone is tallying, I'm Team Aniston, too!)

MartyrMom said...

Whew...I thought you had read my blog and was going to correct my mistake on doctors' appointments. My post was done the day before your post, so I thought I had given you the idea! Glad I got it right!!

PS I would not be mad if you did correct me on my mistakes, since I hate seeming stupid!

Gorilla Bananas said...

The problem with apostrophes is that all these very sensible rules have to be discarded when writing "it's" and "its".

soft nonsense said...

Leave it to the Internets to finally clear that up for me.

Rachel said...

Interesting blog post. What about the correction editor of Microsoft Word, which gives errors sometimes as the verified word? For instance, you type Favour and it says Favor. Or a second example, you type, Fitzgerald and it says Fitsh or something.

P.S. Favor is American English while Favour is British. But, i'm sure you understand, the point i'm driving at.

Thanks for the usual grammatical update which keeps US on our toes.

notesfromnadir said...

Thank you so much for bringing this up. I sometimes have to sit there for a few seconds to figure out the 's w/ the plural, meaning the twins. You really have a knack for illustrating this stuff so well!

By the way, where are Brad & Angelina this week?

Christopher said...

Since people have been calling me Chris for my entire life I have had so much trouble with this. I could never get anyone to explain to me whether it should be Chris's or Chris'. It drove me nuts, I didn't get a decent explanation till I took a college English course. I have the strangest painful childhood memories.

Theresa Milstein said...

Britney so could not pull off the bald look. There were many things she was missing around that time (underwear?) besides her hair.

The one thing I think I have pretty solid is apostrophes. It's worth mentioning to leave them out of plurals. I have a cousin who does that on Facebook, which makes me cringe.