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Listen up, Rachel Maddow—learn your possessives!

I voluntarily submitted myself to the excruciating torture of watching your show yesterday, June 3, 2011 and during your coverage of John Edwards’ current trials and tribulations I started counting the times you mispronounced John Edwards’ name. When you needed to show possession, without a single exception you pronounced his name as Edwardses, and somewhere around twenty I stopped counting, primarily because I ran out of fingers and toes.

Please note that I did not use an apostrophe in the word Edwardses in that last sentence—it’s impossible for a listener to detect the presence or the absence of an apostrophe in such usage. It may or may not have been present in the mind-numbing number of times you voiced it. With an apostrophe the word Edwards’es, or Edwards’s, is a violation of English usage—without an apostrophe Edwardses is a good word, forming the plural of the Edwards family, as in The Edwardses embarked on a family vacation aboard the Queen Elizabeth—I refer to the ocean liner, of course, not to the current royal monarch.

And no, in answer to the question that is probably forming in your mind one would not, or at least should not, identify the entire family as the Edwardss—the plural requires the es—that’s what makes it plural. Got it?

The es added to Edwards tells us that the whole famn damily went on vacation aboard the QE2. Based on that example, I would hazard a guess that each time you used the term it would be spelled thusly—Edwards’es—but I could be wrong. Words that end in an s are made possessive by the addition of an apostrophe only, not by an apostrophe and s, nor by the addition of an apostrophe and es.

Jumping Jehosaphat, Rachel! Even Sarah Palin knows that! If you were reading a teleprompter last night, I suggest that you fire the worker that compiled it, and if you were winging it I urge you to enroll in English 101—both you and your viewers will profit.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Irregardless—correct speech, or double negative?

This posting consists of a series of comments posted to my blog in my About the King of Texas section. I consider the comments and my responses worthy of being brought into the bright light of day instead of remaining in the shadows of the comment section. My purpose is to share those brilliant interchanges with the ever-growing legions journeying to my blog, throngs—nay, multitudes—that include the brightest of the brightest—intellectuals all, erudite to the very core, whether subjects of The King of Texas or visitors from far flung regions ruled by lesser monarchs.

To view the original About the King of Texas, click here.

Comment posted by Barbara Kelley on June 13, 2009:

Dear King of Texas:
You write like Flannery O’Connor, so maybe you are the King O’Texas. I am going to delve more into this blog at a later time—you know, when I can wrap my mind around it. What do you think of the word “irregardless?”

My response:

Hi, Barbara—thanks for the comment, particularly for your comparison of my writing to that of Flannery O’Connor—I’ll accept it as a compliment, regardless of her propensity to lace her writings with grotesque characters.

I appreciate your application of an apostrophe to my title—apostrophication, so to speak. I know—apostrophication is not a word—at least it was not a word until I created it. I couldn’t find it anywhere online or offline. I should probably apply for a patent so I could draw royalties each time the word is used.

I love it—there is probably a wee bit of Irish in all of us, including our current president. And here I must give thanks and a tip of my kingly crown to Kinky Freedman, a well-known Texas resident, a successful writer and sometimes candidate (unsuccessful) for public office. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Kinky said that he would vote for that Irishman, Barak O’Bama.

As regards—or in regard to—or regarding—irregardless:

Irregardless is not a proper word, regardless of its appearance in dictionaries and regardless of its use in speeches and writings by supposedly erudite persons. An exception might be when the user is faced with an untutored audience, one that might accept its use as proper—audiences in certain southern hilly or swampy areas, for example.

You know, of course, that the prefix ir means not, and the suffix less means without, ergo the non-word irregardless contains a double negative.

Less negates regard all by itself—it needs no help from ir.

Thanks again for your visit and for your comment. Please feel free to “delve more into” my blog—I welcome your comments, whether compliments or criticisms, and I will respond to either—or both.

Comment posted by Mary Ellen Ryall on July 26, 2009:

Good morning: One day one of our officers said, “I can’t wrap my head around it right now.” I thought, what does she mean? Well, I know now. I became overloaded with projects at work and simply couldn’t take on one more responsibility. Still, I don’t appreciate this kind of expression. Why not just say, I have too much responsibility right now and can’t take on anything more at this time. Information overload is a reality in the work world now unfortunately.

Cindy Dyer is our graphic artist. She mentioned what a great writer you are. I can see you enjoy being a student of language. The world needs those who can express themselves with polish and flair. The gift of writing using eloquent language skills is fast disappearing from this world.

Comment made by Will Howard on February 14, 2020:

I just delight in your writing. Texas would be so improved if you would make Texas the focus of your wise wit frequently.

My response:

Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the comment. It’s a nice compliment, one that I cheerfully and gratefully accept, and I will in future postings strive to incorporate Texas to the greatest extent possible, whether witty or not so.

Texas is not my native state, but as the bromide goes, “I got here as soon as I could.” I arrived long ago in the past century as a lowly serf, one among many subjects in our military forces, and in the interim I have ascended to the throne—I am now The King of Texas, albeit the result of self-crowning and self-anointment. It’s important for one to note that the first word in my title is The, and that word makes me supreme, not susceptible to the actions of pretenders and contenders thirsting for my throne and fame—they can use the title A King of Texas or King of Texas or Texas’ King, etc., but none can rightfully claim to be The King of Texas, at least not as a blogger on WordPress.com.

I would like to believe that your comment was inspired purely by your having read About the King of Texas on my blog, but I have reason to suspect that the comment was perhaps tinged—tainted, so to speak—with the purpose of introducing me to your web site and its various connections.

Hey, whether true or otherwise, I have no problem with it. After reading your comment several times while blushing with sinful pride, I rushed to your site and spent a considerable amount of time rambling around it and its connections, then I bookmarked it and forwarded it to several people. And as Ahhnuld is wont to say, “I’ll be bach!”

 
 

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A letter to Laura . . .

This posting was prompted by a comment made by a viewer on one of my previous postings (see at https://thekingoftexas.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/letter-to-the-editor-san-antonio-express-news-obama’s-reeling/).

The original posting was prompted by an apostrophe placed in the surname Obama. It was meant to form a contraction, “Obama is,” an other-than-normal contraction and somewhat misleading. Obama’s is the possessive form of a singular noun, and the apostrophe thus implies that the president possesses a reeling, whatever that might be. “Obama’s reeling” was the heading of a letter to the editor of San Antonio’s Express-News, the only daily newspaper (and fading fast) in the seventh most populous city in the United States. The subject of the letter was Massachusetts’ recent  election to fill the Senate seat held by the late Senator Edward Kennedy. The race was between a Democrat and a Republican. Would anyone want to hazard a guess as to which candidate won?

You’re right!

I felt that this venue was more appropriate than replying directly to the viewer’s comment on that posting—any reply I made would have been buried and would have rarely, if ever, been exposed to the brilliant light of a separate posting.

As an incidental but closely related thought, I recently encountered this phrase on a blog: “I’d have,” meaning “I would have . . .” I consider “I’d” to be an improper contraction, and ambiguous even if it were proper—it could also mean “I did have” or “I should have,” etc. Would anyone want to hazard a guess as to whose website it was on?

You’re right!

And now on to Laura’s comment and my letter to her:

From: (http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk.html#1)

William Strunk, Jr. (1869–1946).  The Elements of Style.  1918

II. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE

1. Form the possessive singular of nouns with ’s.

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles’s friend

Burns’s poems

the witch’s malice

This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

Note: (The italics and bolding in Strunk’s rule above are mine).

This is Laura’s comment on my posting:

“The Chicago Manual of Style agrees with Strunk and White re: forming the possessive of a proper noun ending in S by adding an apostrophe and S. Also, I’m wondering if you meant “feign” and not “fain,” which doesn’t seem to fit neatly in your sentence. — Laura.” (http://terriblywrite.wordpress.com)

Letter to Laura . . .

Hi, Laura,

Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the comment. Please note that I approved it exactly as you posted it—I’m sure you are aware that I could have edited the comment to fit my taste, and had I chosen to do so I could have deleted it in its entirety. You, however, cannot edit your comment after it is posted, nor can you edit my reply—that leaves me free to change, rebut or delete any comment that is less than complimentary. I chose to let your comment stand as submitted in order to expand my response via this posting.

As used in that sentence, the phrase fain to know means if one desires to know, or is inclined to know or is willing to know (desirous, inclined and willing are three of fain’s many definitions). Had I used the word feign, it would have meant pretend to know. I know that fain is archaic and sparsely (if ever) used in today’s writings, but I do not feel that I misused it in my posting. As for my choice of a word “which doesn’t seem to fit neatly” in the sentence, I am satisfied with its fit and its neatness—nay, I’m more than satisfied—I am proud of both attributes.

On your trek through a flourishing crop of words in the process of nitpicking, you managed to harvest only one nit, and that one nit apparently prompted you to rate the posting with a negative thumbs down. I say apparently because I can’t be sure that the thumbs down is yours. However, this I know with certainty—yours is the only comment on the posting, and of the five votes existing at this time four are mine, so I must surmise that the thumbs down vote is yours.

A grammatical note—I realize that the graphic for the voting process shows only one thumb up and one thumb down. I use the plurals (thumbs up and thumbs down) because I cannot remember ever hearing someone giving someone a singular thumb up or thumb down—sounds a bit naughty.

Yes, I vote on my own postings, and I always give myself a thumbs up vote—to do otherwise would be self-defeating, so to speak. Please let me know whether the lone negative vote is yours, and if it is not I will willingly—just willingly, not humbly—tender a public apology.

I give nothing less than excellent ratings to any posting, whether items posted by me or by other bloggers (I suspect you would agree with me that consistency is a desirable trait). I strive mightily to adhere to the adage that says, “If you can’t say anything positive, don’t say anything.”

As an aside, I believe the practice of one voting on one’s own posting is widespread, a belief that is supported by a comprehensive poll of several (three) bloggers. Such actions are simply the result of writers tooting their own horn, a perfectly normal and common practice that is neither prohibited nor restricted by rule or law.

As regards your statement that The Chicago Manual of Style agrees with Strunk:

I do not agree with your statement, nor do I trust or agree with anyone or anything related to Chicago, whether that person or thing be animal, vegetable, mineral, publication or president. I visited the Chicago Manual of Style online, but went no farther than the second page (the result of a search phrase) because I was unwilling to subscribe and pay for the “privilege” of going farther. However, the results of my search (admittedly brief) appear to contradict your contention that the Chicago Manual of Style agrees with William Strunk’s The Element of Style, circa 1918. In fact, the Chicago Manual of Style appears to leave a fair amount of choice for ways to show the possessive forms of words ending in ess—Strunk offers no alternatives and states that we should “Follow this rule whatever the final consonant.”

Check it out at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/search.epl. I used the search phrase possessive of words ending in s and it returned eight entries dealing with that subject.

Here are the first two entries:

7.21:   Words and names ending in unpronounced “s”

To avoid an awkward appearance, an apostrophe without an s may be used for the possessive of singular words and names ending in an unpronounced s.

The following is a personal note, intended to clarify the term unpronounced: The ess is pronounced, but it takes the sound of ze, the twenty-sixth (and final) letter in the English alphabet.

7.23: An alternative practice

options outlined above may prefer the system, formerly more common, of simply omitting the possessive s on all words ending in s

Those entries do not show agreement with Strunk—they show that there are alternatives that may be used to “avoid an awkward appearance,” and they give the option of “simply omitting the possessive s on all words ending in s” in stark contrast to Strunk’s imperative to “Follow this rule whatever the final consonant.” Two of the examples given are Charles’s friend and Burns’s poems, both wrong and neither in complete agreement with the Chicago Manual of Style.

Laura, I spent some time on your site at http://terriblywrite.wordpress.com. I enjoyed my visit, and had you provided a counter for votes similar to the one I use on my blog, I would have rated your work excellent. You are quite thorough and successful in your quest to find errors in the writings of others, and you effectively use humor in pointing out the errors albeit, in my opinion, humor tinged with a certain measure of contempt for the inept writer.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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