You saw the mistake I made there, right? But you still knew what I meant. In fact, without even opening the blog, you knew I’d made A Mistake.
Which brings me to my point. Which is not so much ‘do they matter’ — that was just to get your attention — but ‘are they wrong’?
I mean, if so many people think every s needs an apo’strophe before it, doe’s that not make it right?
I can hear you ‘screaming…
Stop. Let’s have a look at language. Hands up if you’re over 35 and hate hearing ‘LOL’? Or ‘OMG’? Well you’re not alone! You can be proud that every generation before you has probably hated hearing their beloved language abused too!
Not so long ago, when the youth of the day used alien words like ‘bus’ and ‘pram’ instead of the proper English form ‘omnibus’ and ‘perambulator’ respectively, I’m guessing the over-35s were furious. Not that it did them much good.
And what about LOL, since I raised it? A 20-something told me he’d been using the word (yes, it’s a word, it’s in the Oxford Dictionary folks) since the late 1990s (as laugh out loud, not little old lady before you tell me it’s actually been around since the ’60s). It was an abbreviation he used playing StarCraft.
So why, two decades later, do people still ‘have no truck with LOL’ (as a mate of mine says)? Of course, I double-checked my 20-something source, because I just couldn’t believe he was right. English is my language — how did I only hear LOL for the first time in 2013 or thereabouts if it was so old? But right he was. More fool me.
And that led me to other acronyms. The first recorded usage of OMG is my favourite:
And the internet’s full of posters lauding Shakespeare’s contributions to modern language (although I’m not so sure about ‘hoist with his own petard’). I imagine these sounded alien to the over 35’s of the time.
So back to the apostrophe. Sometimes I think this one’s my personal favourite. Especially the neuter possessive pronoun its. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, from 16th to 19th century the word was correctly spelt it’s. The apostrophe “came to be omitted [either because] it’s [was] already established as a contraction of it is, or by general habit of omitting apostrophes in personal pronouns (hers, yours, theirs, etc)”.
So really, is it so terribly wrong to say “this printer automatically ejects it’s spent cartridges”?
All this is not to say spelling mistakes and grammar don’t bother me, and one or two are only to be expected (come on! The editor had 100,000 words to study — can’t you forgive one or two mistakes?!), but here’s a sample of a book I had to stop reading only a few pages in, and the constant its’ (five on page five!) was a major contributor.
I don’t know about you, but I reach a point where I start looking for the mistakes instead of reading the story.
Language is fluid. It grows every day, especially with with immigration and technology. The luddites never knew they were luddites at the time they rose up. World War One wasn’t called that until World War Two happened. Should we still be saying divers instead of diverse? Anon instead of at once? Is it nevertheless or nathelees? And why oh why did we get rid of ynogh and change it to enough? Is steven less confusing than voice?
The same mate who ‘doesn’t truck with LOL’ took about 10 years off his life when he passed a sandwich board sign in the street that said ‘Barista’s, waiter’s and chef’s wanted. Apply within.’ He fumed for weeks. It can’t be healthy for him.
If we’re going to be sticklers for language, then it’s not roos that grace our coat of arms, it’s kangaroos. We Aussies don’t wear sunnies at summer barbies, the mossies don’t hurt a bit, and I’m not having a coldie at Chrissy in the stinking heat of Brissie while the kids play footy.
Even QANTAS shouldn’t be a word. Now that’s just un-Australian of me to say that. LOL.