Apoplectic About Apostrophes

A lesson in the proper usage of apostrophes was long overdue in Syracuse

As a region, we struggle with punctuation, apostrophes in particular. Our latest embarrassment: On opening night of the Syracuse University football season, the turf at the Carrier Dome was inscribed with the phrase, “Ernie Davis Legend’s Field.” Apostrophe need not apply.

Even if the title had been correctly punctuated, it’s clumsy. What does it mean? Don’t forget Jim Brown! He was legendary, too!

SU athletics has committed a number of hi-viz typos lately, but they’re not alone. The apostrophe in Wegmans, our most visible merchant, has been MIA since 1931. Just the other day I noticed a Flip Wilson quote scrawled on the chalkboard menu of an East Side sweet shop. It read: “If you think nobody cares if your alive, try missing a couple of car payments.” Try adding an apostrophe — and a vowel.

Because we all make mistakes with the language — I more than most — I thought it might be helpful to offer an apostrophe-centric grammar tutorial. Can you spot the errors in these sentences?

1. Chads totally awesome day at Destiny USA included unlocking his handcuffs, fleeing security and trying to evade police by jumping into Onondaga Creek.

What’s wrong: Only one Chad — not, as the above sentence implies, multiple Chads — was accused of shoplifting a bag of merchandise at the Hiawatha Correctional Facility and trying to swim to freedom. To fix the sentence, give Chad a name that will command more respect behind bars. I suggest “Magnus.”

Beyond that, this is no time to fixate on apostrophe placement. Magnus needs to make sure his tetanus shot is up to date, and get the counseling he clearly needs. Good Lord! What kind of madman would intentionally jump in Onondaga Lake or its fetid source waters? Don’t answer that.

2. One problem with the Carrier Dome is that on warm days it get’s so hot and steamy that a thick beer’s haze creates, making it hard to see Ernestine Davidson’s Legos Field through the haze.

What’s wrong: There are no errors in this sentence. Just testing to see if your paying attention.

3. Their’s a really long line at the Pizza Hut stall at Taste of Syracuse, if you’ven’t been they’re yet.

What’s wrong: It makes no sense — grammatically or otherwise — that there really was a Pizza Hut stall at Taste of Syracuse. What should be an annual celebration of local culinary talent mustint’ be co-opted by international mega-corportations pushing dumbed-down, mass-produced pseudo-food. This community is butter than that. We should aspire to excellence at all times, just like the great Eduardo Dinkelfelder did on Legionaire’s Field. That said, I will confess to some curiosity about Pizza Hut’s new salted pretzel crust. Please contact me — discreetly — if you’ve’ tried it.

4. When asked by his supervisor if he could fix the leaking steam valve at Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station No. 1., Darrell replied, “Sorry, cant.”

What’s wrong: Without an apostrophe after the “n” in cant, Darrell is apologizing to the qualities of hypocrisy and sanctimoniosity, which makes no sense. The sentence should be tweaked so that Darrell replies: “Hey, no problem. Just gotta run out to my truck and get my, um, torque wrench. Yes! That’s it — torque wrench. Back in a jiffy…. no, really. ”

5. Savagely hung over, Clem thought about the half-bag of barbecued Fritos waiting for him back in the camper and about whether he should get a third spider tattoo on his neck and then his mind drifted to Colette, prompting him to lean to his left so he could assess her ample-but-not-unsightly rear-end as she worked the ring toss game — such a ripoff! — and he wondered if the two of them would be going at it again tonight behind the 4-H barn and it was in that moment that his thoughts were rudely interrupted by the sound of colliding roller coaster cars, and so it was — amid the clanging metal and childrens’ screams — that Clem came to understand that he would not be a roller coaster operator much longer.

What’s wrong: In the possessive, plural nouns such as “children” require the apostrophe before the “s” — not after. Similarly, Clem should focus on Colette’s character and spirituality foremost. Her physical attributes should be secondary. Linguistically speaking, Clem needs to keep his apostrophe in his pants.[snt]


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