Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Apostrophe madness!


Kudos to Red Pen, Inc. reader LISA C. for her battle for proper punctuation! LISA wanted to order a family name sign for her house...and she stumbled onto a true apostrophe catastrophe! LISA says: "I was shopping for home decor and found this. They offer the incorrect version in the photo, but you can special order the correct version." LISA, a good Samaritan when it comes to proper punctuation, then e-mailed the company who makes these signs, and said:

"I thought you might want to reconsider the wording of your family name signs. It is completely incorrect to use an apostrophe when pluralizing a family name. An example would be: The Carpenter's (incorrect). When do we use the possessive? When we want to show possession. The only time we would write something like "I am going to the carpenter's" would be if we were going to the business of a carpenter, and we would not capitalize the C in carpenter because it is an occupation, not a name. Therefore, the correct form for a pluralization of the name would be The Carpenters. Also correct: The Carpenters' House (note the placement of the apostrophe). I notice that your signs are pictured with the apostrophe and one can order a sign without, if desired. Why would you perpetuate a grammatical/spelling error? There should only be one choice offered; the correct choice. On behalf of all English teachers throughout America, I ask that you please help us to educate students (and adults) in the proper use of the apostrophe."

The idiot customer service representative, clearly unaware of the gravity of this situation, responded: "I will be more than happy to eliminate the apostrophe on your sign. Simply note so on your order comments."

And LISA, in turn, said: "You misunderstand me. I'm not placing an order. I am bringing a mistake to your attention in hopes that you (or your supervisor, perhaps) will correct it.
You are willing to eliminate the apostrophe for me, which I appreciate. But are you unwilling to eliminate the apostrophe on that item because it is improper grammar? Why not offer the sign only in the proper form or in the very least, picture the sign in the proper form on your website with the instruction for those who are ignorant of English grammar to have an apostrophe added? You do realize that the plural of a family name uses no apostrophe, correct? (Well, at least now I hope that you do! Don't take my word for it, please.) Surely I am not the first person to bring this to your attention, am I?"


I'm really interested to see if this company ever takes LISA's advice and changes the way these signs are written. Props to LISA for fightin' the good fight for proper punctuation and appropriate apostrophe usage! (Note how nicely LISA explains this apostrophe issue to the customer service person. I think LISA should start her own grammar blog--she's obviously good with this type of stuff!)

6 comments:

Cuz_I'm_The_Mom said...

My "Carpenter" explanation came from englishplus dot com, which I did cite in my original e-mail to the company. Their explanation was less sarcastic than mine would have been.

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

There's nothin' wrong with a little sarcasm. :)

JD said...

I suppose if your name was (for example) John Kohler, you might gain the nickname 'The Kohler' (in much the same way as I have heard Patrick Swayze referred to 'The Swayze').

And then, if you were to live in a house on your own, it would be The Kohler's House.

And so you could rightly order a sign that read 'The Kohler's'.

But I imagine that scenario doesn't happen very often...

Becky said...

Good try, Lisa!

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

I like your explanation, JD! But you're right, this wouldn't work for many people. If The Hoff needed one of these signs, for instance, and he lived alone, your explanation would totally work. :)

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

Hey, Becky--epic baseball game last night, huh? :) What a slugfest! (Although I was kinda rooting for the Rangers since I have a massive crush on Josh Hamilton, I also wanted the Sox to do well since I've got Bay and Lowell on my fantasy team...)