Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

he can’t spell yet, but he sure can wield an apostrophe…

To Mummy, have a verry verry happy Mother's day, you sansirley, from your gorgers boy I’m not sure what I love most about this Mother’s day card, given to my sister by my nephew:

  • His endearingly intuitive phonetic spelling (“you sansirley from your gorgers boy”. Bless.)
  • The gift-wrapped presents. (What’s in the tall thin parcel? A telescope? A toblerone? I need to know.)
  • The ‘I love you xxx’ pullout, or…
  • The fact that he’s mastered the use of the apostrophe at such a tender age…

If you’ve read my earlier post, Apostrophising, you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s his correct use of the apostrophe that had me dancing with glee.

Another word nerd in the family: I’m so proud!

But if a small boy can position an apostrophe correctly before he’s even learned to spell, why is it that so many grown-ups can’t?

Take this example from Shrewsbury, which I found on the Apostrophe Catastrophe Facebook page (oh yes, there are more of us word nerds out there).

When is an apostrophe not an apostrophe? When it's a comma...

When is an apostrophe not an apostrophe? When it’s a comma…

Here they’ve not only failed to understand the proper function of the apostrophe (to suggest either possession or the omission of letters or numbers), they’ve also confused it with a comma. How depressing…


Poor punctuation is dangerous. Just look at what the rude insertion of a punctuation mark where it doesn’t belong does to the spelling of benches, butterflies and teddies.


It might even be fatal. I very nearly caused a pile-up on the A303 the other day trying to take a photo of a garage sign which said:

Camper Van’s

Fortunately, no-one died.


This time.

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