Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Apostrophes


This sign, spotted in a supermarket in Singapore called Giant, is perfectly punctuated (the apostrophe applies, in each case, after the plural forms children, ladies and men have been derived).  In the UK, where I lived for eight years as a student, such a sign would almost certainly have been mispunctuated.

4 comments:

midge3 said...

People in my office in the UK have no end of trouble with this. They even write an apostrophe after "magistrates" (as a noun on its own) because it has one in "magistrates' court".

What's worse, our style manual tells us there's a distinction between "childrens' clothes" and "the children's toys". I wrote to the publications team and told them I'd never heard of this rule, but they didn't correct it. (I'm not even sure what the rule was supposed to be - maybe "childrens' clothes" are intended for children rather than owned by specific children.)

Ludwig Tan said...

I think that's commonly called the "grocer's apostrophe" or even the '"grocer's comma" (since some people can't tell commas and apostrophes apart).

"Childrens' clothes" is most definitely wrong!

gerry said...

Hi Dr Tan,

Hooray for Giant! haha!

In view of the apostrophe, I've always wondered about those 'names' of 'special days' like 'Mother's Day', 'Father's Day', 'Teacher's Day'.... if using 'Children's Day' as a guide, the earlier 3 should be 'Mothers' Day' and so on, in the plural form? However, I'm guessing that both would work just as well as we could treat the day as 'belonging' to all mothers (plural) or even as 'belonging' to my mother (singular)... at least that's how I've been explaining to the more inquisitive kids over the years... hope that works! =)

Ludwig Tan said...

Hi, Gerry

I've actually been wondering about this myself for some time, and I don't think there's any hard-and-fast rule whether it should be Teacher's Day, Teachers' Day, or simply Teachers Day.

They're all grammatical, depending on what you have in mind, so I wouldn't worry too much!