Tag Archives: Language

Apostrophe Police

There is a disturbance in the grammatical force! Punctuation Jedi John Richards, a 96-year-old former copy editor who has dedicated his life to the protection of the endangered apostrophe, is giving up the fight and going to the Dark Side. The announcement that he is abandoning his Apostrophe Protection Society and albeit Quixote quest to save the world from written stupidity should strike fear in the hearts of every wordsmith and language lover everywhere. NOTE: If you use words like “theyselves,” skip this whole thing as it will be meaningless.

In a society that struggles with the complexities of the proper use of a turn signal, punctuation, as a whole, has become superfluous. Cellular providers do not charge by the character, and yet most text messages lack the dignity of a single, well-placed comma or even a period. Exclamation points, however, seem to multiply like Viagra-infused field rabbits behind sentences typed in all capital letters. And this, in and of itself, may be why aliens continue to fly on past our planet.

Admittedly a peaceful protestor, Mr. Richards fought the good fight to have the apostrophe’s rightful representation in things like “Ladies’ Apparel” and “Harrod’s Department Store.” While Richards respects a company’s right to delete their own apostrophe, he is baffled at how McDonald’s can get it right but Harrods can’t. If you’re taking notes, “can’t” and “don’t” can and do have an apostrophe.

Richards was also affronted, and rightfully so, by the willy-nilly insertion of apostrophes where they did not belong, like in dates: adding an apostrophe to the 1960s only diminishes its psychedelic impact. CDs on your desk and all Fs on your report card do not require apostrophes – no ifs, ands or buts about it!

erhaps it was Texans who pushed Mr. Richards over the edge with their possessive form of a plural number of groups: y’all’s’s. Used correctly in a sentence, “All y’all’s’s boots still have mud on them.” Texas may very well be where good apostrophes go to die.

Although he did not directly reference Texans, Mr. Richards wrote on the Apostrophe Protection Society’s website before it was overwhelmed by properly punctuated protest posts, “The ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!” And he is not wrong. Although all y’all still need to leave y’all’s muddy boots outside.  

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Filed under Much Ado About Nothing

How to Say “Idiot” in Arabic

I took four semesters of Spanish in college because I had to in order to graduate. I spent a lot of my pizza-and-beer money on tutors to get through those classes, and only passed that final semester because I brought donuts to the early morning final. That’s the truth. Donuts. For the whole class. It was worth it for the college diploma and the knowledge that I’d never have to face down another foreign language again. Until now.

Because I’ve moved to the Middle East, I’m expected to “hablo Arabico.” Okay, can we just stop right there? If I’m a complete wash out in Spanish, a language that is tied to really good food and is practically the second language of the State of Texas, how am I expected to learn Arabic? I’d have better luck opening a snow cone stand over here!

Every week our Arabic tutor, an extremely tolerant man from Egypt who couldn’t possibly be paid enough to take on this Herculean task, comes to our house to try and teach us a language that is just a smidgeon less difficult than Mandarin Chinese. After two full years, all I got out of Spanish was the ability to order a couple of beers and find the bathroom. Usually in that order. But they don’t have beer over here, so I’m trying to just learn other basic survival phrases, like “Help me!” “Do you speak English?” and “Hey, does your camel bite?”

I really am making an honest effort to learn, so I make flashcards with everything written the way it sounds. Then when I want to ask the man at the fish market, “How much is the squid?” I can just pull out the flashcard and mangle the pronunciation to the point that I say who knows what and the fishmonger just gives me whatever I point at to make me go away.

In all fairness, I have learned the word for “yes,” which is pronounced “nom.” Like the noise the PacMan makes: nom nom nom nom. And no is simply, “la.” Lalalalalala is not just for those times when you don’t know the words to the song, it’s now great for the times you don’t know the words to anything! Now how do you say, “Where can I find a good burrito in this country?”

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Filed under From the Sandbox