Blasted Apostrophes (Was Years v. Years')

Subject: Blasted Apostrophes (Was Years v. Years')
From: "Wayne J. Douglass" <wayned -at- VERITY -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 14:54:49 -0800

At 04:38 PM 2/26/97 -0500, Maurice Rose wrote:
>If you know what "old genitive case" means, perhaps it's clear. But
>it does not explicitly discuss why the apostrophe should not be
>omitted. Is there no alternative to the "old genitive case"? Why
>might some people mistakenly think there is? I assumed Chicago's
>ruling was of the same weight as "Use the serial comma/Don't use the
>serial comma".
I quote from Robert E. Morsberger's _Commonsense Grammar and Style_:

"The one advantage German has over English is the lack of apostrophes. There
was no apostrophe in Old or Middle English. It appeared during the
Renaissance along with printing, and it has plagued us ever since.
Basically, the apostrophe is a printer's mark rather than part of the
language proper. It is never used in speech except by Victor Borge, yet no
one ever has any trouble distinguishing meaning without it. In written
English it more of a nuisance than a help. Its rules are inconsistent and
full of exceptions; and students, advertisers, and journalists often use it
incorrectly, omitting it when required and inserting it when it is not
called for. It would be better to have no apostrophe at all than to have it
so misused, and George Bernard Shaw did try to get rid of it."

Regarding years/years', Morsberger gives this advice without resorting to
the genitive: "As a general rule, no apostrophe is used in words more
descriptive than possessive that end in 's.'" He cites "teachers college" as
an example.

--Wayne Douglass

Verity, Inc. Email: wayned -at- verity -dot- com
894 Ross Drive Telephone: 408-542-2139
Sunnyvale, CA 94089 Facsimile: 408-542-2040
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