Thursday, September 2, 2010

rural grammar, part i: the apostrophe

colloquial language. it's a beautiful thing. it brings life to our various parts of the world and is perhaps the single greatest factor in determining someone's whereabouts. an accent here, an elongated syllable there, and voila! you know where someone is from...or in the case of george w. bush where they pretend to be from. (bush scholar john william ferrell will back me up on this one.)

just think how boring it would be if we all sounded like me, monotone and with no recognizable accent. there's no need to keep thinking. it would be terrible.

but colloquial language doesn't stop with accents. there are idioms and reference points that also play a part. some make their way into mainstream american english. one can cut off, cut out, turn off, or flip off the lights, and depending upon where this person is from they will do only one of the above despite the fact that there is no cutting or turning involved in making a room dark, and generally that jerk that just cut you off going 70 down the highway gets flipped off, not a light.

that being said, i have been astounded at the use of apostrophe in rural America. it's truly baffling at times. i cannot tell you how many businesses i have driven by here in the mississippi delta that buck all grammatical trends when it comes to naming. you would not believe some of the names I have seen written down if i introduced the people to you. some uses are passable, a plural that could could possibly be construed as a possessive, a made up word, or one that's just misspelled in which case the problem goes a lot deeper than possession.

take for instance, this lovely restaurant in cleveland.

at first blush there's nothing wrong with it, right? wrong.

well, i guess you're kind of right. it would be more awful if it were possessive. the crustaceans would then be marketing their crawfish, a member of their very own family, for your enjoyment. no one wants to eat crawfish served to them by an actual red lobster. it's just weird. that's why chik-fil-a uses cows to sell chicken. they get this distinction.

but then again, it might actually make more sense for it to be possessive seeing as crawfish are a member of the crustacean family so ipso facto the crawfish do belong to the crustaceans.

seeing as no arthropods actually own businesses (yet) the name for this establishment is all the more confusing. if they'd just call it "Crustaceans" there would be no problem. i would know that when i walk in the door i will be offered any number of exoskeletal creatures soaked in butter, and not simply crawfish. there would be tanks full of rubberbanded crustaceans waiting for consumption. anyone could get behind that...well almost anyone. sorry to those who keep kosher and anyone who's actually adheres to being a vegetarian. (fish is just as much a meat as anything else that comes of a bone.)

it wasn't until i drove through cleveland and clarksdale, ms one afternoon that i realized the problem is being compounded by national chains like walgreens and americas best value inn.

according to a walgreen company stock holder, "Walgreens dropped the comma years ago. Yes, that makes it incorrect, but that’s what they did. Look at your Sunday sale insert or a Walgreens building. No apostrophe. Sad, but true."

sad indeed. since when do companies get to mess with grammar at will? there's no poetic license in acknowledging that mr. walgreen is now responsible for thousands of convenience stores/pharmacies. it probably had something to do with the cost of the signs.

americas best value inn is no better. granted they do operate in Canada, the US, and Mexico, but the last time i took world geography those three made up north america, a single unified continent. so really they only serve one america until they open a cozy little inn down in Rio for the 2016 summer olympics.

really, they're just lazy.

and probably canadian. i'm just saying.


in addition to the blatant misuse of apostrophes by businesses in rural america, there is the over abundant use of apostrophes in names. the name "Leroy" is no longer a single five letter name, but now can be written any number of ways given the introduction of the apostrophe into child naming: Le'roy, Le'Roy, L'roy and so on and so forth.

really the only proper use of the apostrophe in that last example is the last one because it replaces the e. but who will be stopped by such logical thinking? not walgreens, and certainly not any expectant mother who thinks "Le'roy" has a certain je ne sais quoi that "Leroy" does not.

don't get me wrong. i would love to have a name with some flavor. when your name means "from britain," there's really no way but up to go when it comes to adding flair. but i don't think randomly placing an apostrophe at the syllable break gets it done. look at where it takes you.

i'm sure as i continue to live in rural parts of america, i'll continue to confront this and other grammatical misappropriations, so check back for more.

for now i leave you with this actual name and hope you can guess how to pronounce it. it is a real name of a real person and i can get someone who knows this person on the phone if you don't believe me. there are no apostrophes in it. i'm done with them for now.

Le-a

i can't wait to read your attempts.

coming soon: pronunciation.

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