Written by Katie May
This summer, I embarked on a brief crime spree: I defaced private property. And I did it in front of horrified witnesses—my husband and three children. I knew I was setting a bad example, but I didn’t care. I was ready to do time in the hoosegow, to pay my debt to society—even though, in my humble opinion, society owed a debt to me, a debt of gratitude.
I just couldn’t take it any more. So I furtively looked around to make sure that no one was watching, crossly shushed my husband’s protests and solemnly instructed my kids to watch while their mother struck a blow for the cause of—proper punctuation.
Let me explain.
I was on a family vacation to an Oregon coastal town that shall remain nameless to protect the guilty (me). We had flown our kites, eaten our seafood dinners, walked the docks and taken in the sights. As we were leaving the souvenir village, we stopped to read a sign commemorating a local legend, a fierce sea monster known in local lore as the crown lizard.
My criminal instincts stirred when I read that “it’s skull was the largest reptile head ever found.” They hardened when I read the next sentence: “It’s teeth were also the largest ever discovered.” By the time I read to the end, where I learned that the monster would eat anything it could fit “down it’s rather large gullet,” I was convinced that “it’s” appetite for apostrophes also was insatiable.
To be fair—and to share the credit—I was not the first person to notice the extra apostrophes in that plaque. A couple of them were missing by the time my family showed up to read about the crown lizard. I even left a couple so that some grammar do-gooder could come along after me and feel the same thrill that I felt as I gently peeled off each offending apostrophe.
Come to think of it, I probably would appreciate having some company while I’m counting the bars in jail. Of course, I expect to be very busy while I’m doing hard time: I’ll probably find tons of misspelled graffiti on my cell walls.
Misplaced apostrophes are a common complaint among editors and grammar aficionados. If that’s one of your personal pet peeves, you might appreciate this catchy song from Cool Rules, an Australian learning resources provider. A friendly warning, though: You may find yourself humming “The Apostrophe Song” long after you finish watching the video.
What drives you crazy? What misstatements and misuses push your grammar buttons? Your friends and family probably tell you to stop nitpicking—at least that’s what I hear all the time.
Don’t listen to those people. You are a person who cares about language and its proper use. And you are the type of person from whom I want to hear.
Tell me all about your No. 1 communication pet peeve. Is it the people who say things like “supposively”? Is it that sign in the grocery store express lane that beckons to people with “10 items or less”? Whatever it is, I want to hear about it, and so does everyone else here in Nitpicker’s Nook.