Granny Grammar Returns

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.01.00 AMOkay, y’all. I’m back. Did you study your lessons from last time?

First, a review; then more lessons. We’re still exploring the wonderful world of apostrophes. Remember those fellers? The commas-like things that are like bitty little helium balloons that float up to the top of the line? Yeah, those critters.

Like most toys, you can play with ’em, but you have to follow the rules. Last time we learned four of those rules:

Rule #1: Don’t use an apostrophe to make a plural.
Rule #1a: Always return RSVPs.
Rule #1b: Ys Words says you should be y’s about this if you hope to earn any Ph.D’s.
Rule #2: An apostrophe is a possessive’s best friend.
Rule #3: Use an apostrophe to hide missing letters.
Rule #4: It’s is a contraction for it is.

Now for the new stuff:

Remember the rhyme you learned in grade school, When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking? Well, ignore it for now, because this next apostrophe rule is nothing like it. According to Rule #5, when speaking of co-owners, you only give an apostrophe to the second name or noun. Hardly seems fair, but that’s the rule. Examples: Sam and Sue’s house. Or, the sparrows and starlings’ feeder.

But if you’re talking about separate ownership, now, that’s a different matter. In that case, each name or noun gets an apostrophe, thus making everyone happy. Example: my son’s and daughter’s spouses. Or, Detroit’s and Chicago’s snow-removal equipment. So here’s Rule #5: Co-owners share an apostrophe, which the second noun holds; if they don’t share possession, they don’t share an apostrophe.

This next one is interesting. What do you do when a noun that ends in an “s” is singular? Like politics, for instance, or species? Don’t be flummoxed. It’s just like skinning a cat; there are two ways to do it. Option 1: float an apostrophe in the air after the noun (as in, politics’ intrigues) as if it were plural, even though it’s not. Option 2: skirt the question entirely and rephrase the sentence (as in, the intrigues of politics. Except Granny Grammar doesn’t find politics intriguing. She finds it stinky. So a better example might be the stench of politics.)

The same thing goes when you use the name of a place (United States, for example) or organization (like the Academy of Mathematics); you can either add an apostrophe (the United States’ role in the controversy), or take the easy way out and rephrase (the role of the Unites States in the controversy). But whatever your political position, the grammar rule’s the same. Rule #6: If you can’t stand politics’ stench, get out of the kitchen to avoid the stench of politics.

The next rule is exceptional. That is, it deals with exceptions to usual “add apostrophe s” rule. Yeah, yeah, I know, I already gave you some exceptions. Too bad. Here are three more. But they’re weird ones. You might could live your whole life without ever finding yourself in the tight spot of having to know this rule, but Granny wants you to learn it so you’ll have a nice, well-rounded edjucation.

In these three exceptions, you just add an apostrophe (no s):
1) a name containing two or more syllables that ends in an eez sound. (I’m not kidding! This is really a rule!) (Examples: Euripides’ tragedies. Or, the Ganges’ source);
2) words and names ending in an unpronounced s. (Examples: the marquis’ mother or Albert Camus’ novels); and,
3) expressions beginning with for and ending with sake. (Lands alive, what was that again?) Here’s what I’m talkin’ about: for righteousness’ sake or, the go-to prayer wrap-up, for Jesus’ sake. So here’s Rule #7: To avoid a tragedy like one of Euripides’, embrace Camus’ brave new world of proper apostrophe application, for goodness’ sake.

Remember, if you’re uncertain about any of these exceptions, you can always wimp out and rephrase. (So much for a brave new world, eh?)

One more thing, and today’s lesson will be over. (Stop rolling you’re eyes, or I’ll give you that test right now!) Where was I? Oh, yeah: remember those little apostrophes are pushy. Whenever they meet other punctuation in a narrow doorway, they barge through first. Always.

Example: “His smile’s meaning wasn’t as obvious as his kisses’,” she said. Note how the apostrophe jumps in there right away, making the comma follow and the end quote take up the rear. Like chickens, punctuation marks have a pecking order. I won’t give you a rule number for this one. Just remember the apostrophe’s battle cry: “Me first!

Alright, kiddies. Here’s the whole list of apostrophe rules:

Rule #1: Don’t use an apostrophe to make a plural.
Rule #1a: Always return RSVPs.
Rule #1b: Ys Words says you should be y’s about this if you hope to earn any Ph.D’s.
Rule #2: An apostrophe is a possessive’s best friend.
Rule #3: Use an apostrophe to hide missing letters.
Rule #4: It’s is a contraction for it is.
Rule #5: Co-owners share an apostrophe, which the second noun holds; if they don’t share possession, they don’t share an apostrophe.
Rule #6: If you can’t stand politics’ stench, get out of the kitchen to avoid the stench of politics.
Rule #7: To avoid a tragedy like one of Euripides’, embrace Camus’ brave new world of proper apostrophe application, for goodness’ sake.
The apostrophe’s battle cry: “Me first!”

Now, go home and study. Test tomorrow! I hope you’ll all make Granny Grammar proud.

 

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