Apostrophe’s I Don’t Understand [OT]

When did this trend of pluralizing words by adding a gratuitous apostrophe before the s begin? I don’t remember seeing this before a few years ago, and now it’s all over the place. Certainly nobody ever learned this in school.

English is a very tough language to learn. Just about THE ONLY THING THAT’S EASY is being able to pluralize most words by adding an s.


  1. What a time to be victimized by Autocorrect!

    Actually, the irony is, in a FB discussion on this topic yesterday, somebody wrote to me “My phone often autocorrects my plurals into possessives.” So I kinda should have been watching out for this.

  2. Hah. A cow-orker IMed me something today that included a mention of a “she’ll script”. Since his daughter is also (nick)named “Shell” (for “Michelle”), it was extra-confusing.

    Autocorrect will be the death of us all, I’m certain.

  3. “An acronym can be pronounced (SNAFU) while an initialism can’t (CIA).”

    Surely anything *can* be “pronounced” — isn’t that what living in a free country, watered with the blood of patriots who with their last full measure of devotion have thrown off the shackles of the Pronunciation Police, is all about? Wake up, sheeple!

    But yes, if you insist on pronouncing things so that others can (a) understand what you’re saying and (b) not break out in hysterical giggles, it gets more complicated. So the secret is not to care about that. IYKWIMAITYD.

  4. Sometimes it’s just a matter of opinion whether an initialism can be pronounced or not. SQL purists say “Es-cue-ell” but I always said “sequel”. But why not “Squeal”? SCSI was “scuzzy” but not “sexy”. We called CICS “syses”. DOS was “doss” (not Spanish two) but OS was Oh Ess. WYSIWYG was “wizziwig” but RPM was never “rappem”. The IRS is never the erse but your IRA could be Ira as in Gershwin.

  5. By the way, RPMs should be RsPM like attorneys at law, not attorney at laws. Oh, and place names in the United States never have apostrophes with five exceptions, one of which is Martha’s Vineyard.

  6. Mark: CICS as “syses”? Never heard that. What I’ve mostly heard is see-eye-see-ess in the U.S. and “kicks” in U.K. Canadians, um, swing both ways. Not arguin’, just surprised to hear a third pronunciation after 40 years in the mainframe world! Who knows, there may be pockets of some OTHER pronunciation yet…

  7. I just wanted to know if I was imagining things, OR if it was on another blog/board/list that this same sign had come up . . .

  8. “It doesn’t reflect speech but only spelling and it’s the spelling of illiteracy so it isn’t done by anyone publishing.”

    This wildly inaccurate statement is why you’re wrong. “Publishing” is a MUCH broader category today than it was 2 or 3 decades ago.

  9. One acronym that could be pronounced (but isn’t) is V.I.P.: everyone says “vee-eye-pee”. Everyone, that is, except the Germans, who dropped the periods when they imported the term, and say “vip”.
    P.S. @ Bill – As soon as I tried to pronounce CIDU, I discovered why it will never catch on: it sounds exactly like a brand name for a water scooter: “Sea-Doo”.

  10. My sense from scanning a few online dictionaries is that the distinction between ACRONYM and INITIALISM is disappearing.

    And I pronounce this site as “sidyou” which doesn’t sound like “seedoo”.

  11. It’s been happening for decades among rural sign painters.

    Also, there is a good chance that whatever seems to you to be a “recent degeneration of the English language” has been in fact been going on for centuries without things going to Hell. Language changes, after all, and literary language always coexists with colloquial speech.

  12. OK, here’s another one I don’t understand . . . “It’s got a . . .”, which means ‘it has got ‘. . . which is redundant.

    It’s one of those situations where, at least in speech, people don’t compose an entire sentence first but do it by pieces. Once you’ve committed to the contraction, then if you leave out the “got” it become “it’s a . . . ” and seems like “it is a . . . ” is meant. But no.

  13. “By the way, RPMs should be RsPM like attorneys at law, not attorney at laws.”

    The discussion often comes up with the RBI (baseball), standing for Run Batted In. Some people insist that the plural is still RBI, for Runs Batted In, while others go with RBIs. The logic is that the latter acronym/initialism (some people do pronounce it “ribbie”) is a word itself that can have its own plural.

  14. Woozy – “The Smiths’ ” would make more sense as it would be sort of saying that the house the sign is on is “the Smiths’ house”.

  15. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
    Book by Lynne Truss

    A bear eats shoots & leaves – but if written incorrectly he eats (something), shoots (a gun?) and then he leaves.

  16. That reminds me that Dan Quayle had “The Quayle’s” on his mailbox. And that was 30 years ago.

  17. Whose mailbox is this? Why, it’s Quayle’s mailbox!
    (Yeah, except “The Quayles” implies there’s more than one of them, so really, if it’s identifying mailboxes, it should be “The Quayles'” — I tried….)

  18. @Mark in Boston: I used to promote the pronounciation of http www as “hippety hop woo woo woo.” My co-workers were amused.

  19. Sorry, that should of course have been “My cow-orkers were amused.” (Easy mistake to not make.)

  20. Phil Smith III, Thanks for that. I do hope that makes it less annoying.

    My BIL always pronounces ‘schedule’ ‘shedyule’ like the Brits. It always makes me want to ask him if his daughter is doing well in shul. (He visited England. Once.)

  21. @Shrug:

    “I used to promote the pronounciation of http www as ‘hippety hop woo woo woo.'”

    Hey, I like that!

    But as for today… how would “https” (with an “s”) be pronounced?

    (Maybe just “hippety hops” ?)

  22. Is this a job for Apostrophe Person?

    Is he able to turn down the noise of the tv belonging to his neighbors (neighbors’), OR is he able to turn down the [noise of] the neighbors themselves (neighbors)?

  23. @ Andréa – I think the second panel is correct as written (“turn down … neighbors” meaning “to shut off all their voices”). It is, after all, a “universal” remote.

  24. ” It is, after all, a “universal” remote.”

    Oh, dog – WHERE CAN I GET ONE O’ THOSE????? I wonder if amazon.com carries ’em . . .

  25. Today’s vintage Buz Sawyer at Comics Kingdom , which seems to be from 1956, has dialog balloon in the last panel (I’m lowering the all-caps) “Boy, oh boy, oh boy! Wait’ll the guy’s down below hear about this!” (with apostrophe+s pluralizing “guy”).

    URL to the page: https://www.comicskingdom.com/buz-sawyer/2019-07-12

    since I don’t think the image-only URL would work in this case, but here it is for your inspection or in case it does work:


  26. Brian in StL – I clipped Bob’s Quick Guide when I first saw it, but it was in black & white – thanks for the color version.

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