Apostrophe do's and 'don'ts'

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Apostrophe do's and 'don'ts'

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Jan 01, 2002 2:27 am

In Ms Truss's admirable book, "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" (try translating THAT into French), she appears to promote one ambiguity, as well as exposing several.
In her list of the accepted uses of the apostrophe, the last listed are:
#7 "It indicates the plurals of letters" - eg - How many n's are there in Northallerton?
#8 "It also indicates the plurals of words"
The problem is that, while "#7" is a general usage, "#8" - as Ms Truss implies in depth elsewhere - is an extremely rare usage, and this difference really needs stressing at this point, for the sake of clarity.
Caxton: Dictionary of English Grammar (2000) claims that 'Apostrophes are sometimes used, with s, to make an informal plural form for words which are not usually found in the plural - hence "This project is interesting, but there are too many if's".'
I'd like to know which words (if any) other than:
but's, and's, if's, do's and don't's - have plurals constructed in this way. Also, what is accepted usage - Collins Softback ED (1990) has:
"do's and don't's" ;
"do - noun - informal British - a party - plural do's or dos"; and
"ifs and buts".
And is the point at which the 2000s become the 2000's (or vice versa) mid-way across the Atlantic part of another International Date Line?
And finally, (wrt p56 in Ms Truss's book) when did the "Ancient World" end? And do we write "Athens's first Olympic Games were a spectacle for the known world; Athens' next Olympics (if they take place) will be a spectacle for the whole world."?
Submitted by Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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Apostrophe do's and 'don'ts'

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jan 01, 2002 2:41 am

Sorry, please read " Athens' " for " Athens's " and vice versa.

Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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Apostrophe do's and 'don'ts'

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jan 01, 2002 2:56 am

Sorry - I also misquoted Ms Truss - her omission of the definite article in #8"It also indicates plurals of words" does make a rather weak distinction.
Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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Apostrophe do's and 'don'ts'

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jan 01, 2002 3:10 am

Edwin,

I haven't read "Eat, Shoots and Leaves" yet (it's on my list), but the "Chicago Manual of Style" (14th Edition) weighs in on both points. It says

"The general rule for the possessive of nouns covers most proper nouns including most names ending in sibilants." For examples, it gives "Kansas's, Burns's, Texas's" and others. It does list some exceptions, but none that seem to apply to Athens.

In the category of "Words Used as Words," it suggests that you omit apostrophes if you italicize the words but use an apostrophe if you put the word in quotes. For example, "Tim had enough of her 'maybe's.'"

That seems a little confusing, so I'm going to omit the quotation marks I added to indicate what came directly out of CMS.

Tim had enough of her "maybe's."

Lois, May 28
Reply from Lois Martin (Birmingham, AL - U.S.A.)
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Apostrophe do's and 'don'ts'

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Jan 01, 2002 3:25 am

Thanks, Lois. I think that the example you mention from the "Words used as Words" section of the CMS (and the title of the section) means that these peculiar plurals come into play when words of other normal usage are pressed into service as nouns, often as informal quotations.

You may find Ms Truss's "rules" (though she's just the poor old messenger) for "determining" whether to add 's or merely ' (I'll leave out inverted commas too!) to form possessives of various families of terminally-sibilated proper nouns leave you wanting to scream with hilarity or frustration. Who makes these rules?
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