Jan Stafford Kellis

Superfluous Apostrophes

My  new job entails driving to a lot of remote camps and summer homes on roads with no posted names too narrow to pass another truck unless one backs up to the nearest wide spot or driveway to allow the other one by. I’ve always had a pet peeve for superfluous apostrophes, but this peeve has blossomed into a full-blown affliction, rapidly approaching syndrome-class. It seems of the obviously-wealthier-than-the-locals summer people, able to afford a second home on the water in the pristine Upper Peninsula and bent on plastering their name on every sign post at ever intersection, at least 95% of them put an apostrophe before the S to pluralize their surnames. For example, the sign might say “Welcome to the Harrison’s” or simply “The Mason’s”. These signs were created with posterity in mind, painted brilliantly or carved, and are very difficult to correct. I’m thinking of carrying an entire palette of paints with me, and a portable router or sander so I can paint over or buff out the glaring apostrophes. My only other option would be to carry a selection of slabs and replace each incorrect sign I find, and see if the owners ever noticed the difference. Or maybe I could make up little laminated notes explaining the apostrophe’s purpose and its straightforward rules for use and post them near the offending signs. I suppose I’ll go on tolerating the blatant apostrophical abuse and occasionally vent about it here and at Bookworms Anonymous meetings.

Why would you want to advertise your punctuational ineptness to the world? Vexing.

One thought on “Superfluous Apostrophes

  1. Teacher/Learner

    I notice the same things with typos on signs & billboards! One thing I’ve learned (from On Writing by Stephen King) that I’ve been wrong about for a long time is that when a person’s name ends in s & you’re using an apostrophe to show possession, you still use a second s. For example, it should be Dennis’s car (not Dennis’ car) or Alexis’s dog (not Alexis’ dog). Strange, eh?