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I can haz apostrophe?

Oh, CNN, no. Just no (from earlier today):

Yes, I’m an English teacher. But I’m neither a pedantic purist nor a snooty arch-prescriptivist, I swear. It’s all about context. If I see a punctuation error (or something similar) in an email, or in someone’s blog post, or on Twitter, etc., I notice it, but I really don’t care. And even if I did care, it wouldn’t be my place to correct the person. In other words, #1) there are bigger fish to fry (the stakes are low), and #2) I’m not a rude and annoying busybody.

In a more formal/public context, though, things like this do matter, because they create a certain impression in the viewer’s/reader’s mind. The viewer/reader then takes that impression and uses it to form a judgment about the entity (person, business, etc.) that committed the error. The stakes are higher in such contexts because, rightly or wrongly, we do make such judgments. In a sense, it’s a form of visual rhetoric.

tl;dr: CNN needs to hire a proofreader.

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49 Comments
  1. I see poor punctuation as a lack of respect for the reader.

    September 30, 2011
    • The CNN thing was weird, because they had it up for at least 10 minutes (longer than that, I think, but I’m not sure). I figured they’d eventually fix it or something!

      September 30, 2011
    • You do? I see your wearing your ‘pompous’ hat today

      +’
      +e

      September 30, 2011
    • Good punctuation provides the knots in the net of language that ensure you catch the fish of meaning.

      Is that pompous enough?

      /@

      October 1, 2011
      • A net is nothing more than a bunch of holes sewn together.

        October 1, 2011
      • I like it

        No Ant. It can only be pompous if you mean it
        Perfect Pseuds Corner material though

        October 1, 2011
  2. It’s time to eat Carl.

    It’s time to eat, Carl.

    Yes, punctuation saves lives.

    September 30, 2011
    • Srsly!:

      September 30, 2011
      • Shoulda checked online first. Figures I wasn’t original and first at being original. Damned people out there making my life harder by making it easier.

        September 30, 2011
  3. ERV #

    THE APOSTROPHE IS A TOOL OF THE PATRIARCHY!

    September 30, 2011
    • whyevolutionistrue #

      Abbie, you’re a grammar traitor!

      September 30, 2011
      • September 30, 2011
        • Well, tell us who it is. Stop being so catty about it.

          September 30, 2011
    • Omfg, I can’t believe that I wrote this without remembering your hatred for teh apostrophes! I FAIL! :)

      September 30, 2011
      • I remembered. As soon as it hit my inbox I turned to Abbie and said, “Miranda wrote an article about you.”

        True fact.

        September 30, 2011
      • ERV #

        YAAAAAY!!! Your brain has accepted my deviations as ‘normal’! I AM CHANGING THE WORLD!!!

        September 30, 2011
        • Letting the likes of you corrupt the language of Jesus is not the kind of change Obama promised me. *grumble*

          September 30, 2011
    • My tool is too!

      September 30, 2011
  4. Be thankful I’m wearing my pompous hat – I have others :)

    September 30, 2011
  5. ERV #

    Okay, okay, since its’ you’re birthday, Il’l use apostrophes in this sentence.

    Happy now?


    ……
    ………. ROFL!

    September 30, 2011
    • Ha! Just remember to never take your sweet’s into the toilet, missy!

      September 30, 2011
      • Sometimes I wonder where people find these things. I feel like the Joker, “Where [do they] get such wonderful toys?”

        This wasn’t one of those times. =P

        September 30, 2011
  6. I’m a computer programmer, but I’m also an avid (read: nonstop, compulsive) reader, and I speak in New York Times English, thank-you-very-much. Incorrect grammar, usage, punctuation, drives me absolutely nuts: I want my English to “compile” cleanly, just as if it were computer code being vetted by a machine. At the same time, I’m aware we do have as our native tongue <> and I do love wordplay and intentional, impish misuse of the language. Douglas Hofstadter, Lewis Carroll, even Shakespeare himself would not be as they are without the freedom to break the rules one has mastered, even as a jazz player learns a riff cold as a precursor to utterly fucking with it in performance.

    Miranda, for your part, I don’t see you writing strongly worded letters to the inventors of lolcat-speke, so I think you’re off the hook in the “busybody” department. The worst offender I know of along those lines was Richard Feynman’s long time office mate, Murray Gell-Mann, who famously would correct other people on the pronunciations of their own names! There’s an anecdote about Feynman running into Gell-Mann after a long absence of the latter. Feynman asked him where he’d been, and Gell-Mann, with a thick Quebecois accent, said, “MOON-trey-ALLGH!” Feynman finally figured out that Gell-Mann had been in Montreal, and said, “Murray, don’t you think the purpose of language is communication?”

    October 1, 2011
    • Oh goodness, I love that Feynman anecdote. Thanks for sharing it. Feynman = so much WIN in so many ways.

      October 2, 2011
  7. Damn, my double broken brackets surrounding French got mangled: In the above, read “At the same time, I’m aware we do have as our native tongue ;une langue sans Académie.'”

    October 1, 2011
    • Ah, did you mean to write: «use langue sans Académie»? i.e., not “double broken brackets”, but guillemets. Not that it’s like me to be pedantic…

      Your “inner” angle brackets, and the text between them, were “eaten” as HTML!

      /@

      October 1, 2011
      • *use » une

        Stupid iPad auto-correct!

        October 1, 2011
  8. Brad MacInnis #

    Well spotted, Miranda (well-spotted Miranda)? I blame the GOP as well as CNN. They’re (their? there?) too busy spouting stupidity to bother checking their (etc) punctuation or spelling…or facts.

    Like Lynne Truss, I’m usually armed with a black Sharpie to add or delete the apostrophe(‘)s wot make my brain hurt. I’m a pedant only when I want to be. I’d start my own blog on the subject, but I’m sure it’s been done.

    October 1, 2011
    • John Greg #

      Yay to Lynn Truss; bestestest grammar writer-with-humour ever!

      October 1, 2011
    • Lynne Truss is great! But she is loathed by many linguists, including some (most?) of the bloggers at Language Log. Geez. As much as I do enjoy Language Log, some of their bloggers and most of their commenters are a very odd brand of insufferably snobby/holier-than-thou descriptivists.

      October 2, 2011
      • Oh! One more thing about Language Log. A couple weeks ago, they had a ridiculous post about Ben Goldacre’s Twitter. The post can pretty much be summed up as: “Oh dear me! I just took a look at Ben Goldacre’s Twitter feed and now I need the fainting couch! How can write in such an uncouth and casual manner? And how could he be such an idiotic prescriptivist about the passive tense? And, dear lord, he doesn’t always properly capitalize his words. MY GOD, HE IS A DOCTOR! How could he do this? I am galled. I need a lie-down”.

        Ugh, it’s ridiculous and pompous as hell, and most of the comments are just as bad. Ben’s comment is great, though. And someone called “Sili” (I think he/she is a Pharyngulite, but I’m not sure) tried and failed to diss Jerry! (I forgot to tell him about this at the time). Here’s the comment in question:

        Sili said,

        September 15, 2011 @ 10:26 am

        Pompous windbaggery is unfortunately as common among skeptics, as it is elsewhere. The Skeptics Guide to the Universe goes off the rails when they touch upon language (I’ve suggested they interview a LanguageLogger, but they must be getting too many suggestions), and Jerry Coyne is run of the mill prescriptivist.

        Hahaha! “Pompous windbaggery”? Pot. Kettle. Black. Jebus! As I said, LL is made up of lots of insufferably snooty and bitchy arch-descriptivists.

        October 2, 2011
  9. Well, not to reign on you’re parade, but even proofreader’s make mistakes.

    Their people to you, know.

    October 1, 2011
  10. Thanny #

    I do agree that ten minutes should be enough for someone to spot that error and correct it.

    What really annoys me, however, is reading a book (any book), and finding spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. And I don’t mean fussy ones – to joyously split infinitives is every English-speaker’s duty – but “that doesn’t make any sense” ones.

    I have a kind of curse, which I recently discovered my sister shares, where such errors jump out of the page at me as I’m reading. I just cannot imagine why the publishing industry can’t hire someone with the same ability/disability to simply read a manuscript before mass printing.

    Sadly, I do not have the same ability while typing, so contribute my fair share of errors with anything I don’t read before posting.

    October 1, 2011
    • John Greg #

      “I just cannot imagine why the publishing industry can’t hire someone with the same ability/disability to simply read a manuscript before mass printing.”

      Having been tangentially connected with the publishing industry, I can say that they do. However, as with everything else today, speed is of the utmost importance, so many books, especially very large books and formula pulp novels tend to be edited and proofed under ridiculously short deadlines.

      October 3, 2011
  11. Spence #

    *reads posts and leaves*

    October 2, 2011
    • You can read leaves? Like, tea leaves and Oak leaves and shit?

      October 2, 2011
      • Spence #

        Hi Phil, good to see you still around!

        I refer, of course, to the leaves of a book ;^) It’s the posts you should be worried about. I was talking about wooden stakes there.

        October 2, 2011
        • Hey Spence! Good to see you too, but I’ve never really left.

          I can’t help but feel you are trying to keep the humor/puns going. I cannot, in the name of whatever-unexisting-deity disagree with that. Impossible! No suree!

          But I have to point out that you should have picked on my (rather unsubtle) “and shit” in your answer.

          Let’s make it “you’re answer” just to piss off Miranda :)

          October 2, 2011
          • Hee! It takes a lot to piss me off, though. For as much as language (etc.) errors do make me cringe, they don’t make me mad. In most situations, it’s more of a facepalm kind of thing. One example is a church near where my parents live, which has on its sign: “Service’s on Sunday’s are at 10 am and 12 noon”. I mean, really? No one noticed those errors before they paid for that sign? Geez!

            October 2, 2011
            • On an episode of QI, David Mitchell — the comedian, not the MP, nor the author of The Cloud Atlas — suggested that signwriters offer two prices for their services: At the lower price, they will make your sign exactly as you asked for it, complete with errors; at the higher price, they will copyedit it first.

              /@

              October 2, 2011
  12. Damn! This comment section is one the funniest ones I’ve read in ages. Literally made me LoL (laugh over language).

    Otter then that, Iam agree…

    October 2, 2011
    • Ooh, I like “Laugh over Language” as a variant of LOL! Heh!

      October 2, 2011
  13. (belated) Happy Birthday Miranda !

    October 2, 2011
  14. Is it just me ? Affect/Effect almost brings out the Nazi in me

    October 2, 2011
  15. Oh! I forgot to post this semi-relevant lolzy comic that has been going around the internet this week. Heh! (Can’t remember what site I got it from):

    October 2, 2011
    • John Greg #

      Excellent! I wish I’d known that one the last time I had an Oxford comma argument with a client. If you remember the Internet site, could you post it?

      October 3, 2011
      • It’s all over the net, but I believe it was Anne Ferguson who drew the cartoon. She’s an illustration student at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon.

        HERE is the picture with a link to Christine “eloquent as fuck” who maybe wrote the lines

        October 3, 2011
      • It just dawned on me that I originally saw it at Language Log: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3438 Unfortunately, though, they don’t provide a link to an original source :(

        October 4, 2011

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