Punctuation is a powerful thing

I am going to make a confession. Not that this is something to be ashamed of, but more that it’s something that some people find a little….irritating. I am a grammar snob. I just can’t help it. Ever since I learned about the many uses of the comma, the beauty of a semi-colon and the many versions of the word “to” (and “too” and “two”), I have had a desire to fulfill the rules that go along with them.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the wrongful use of the apostrophe and I have noticed this on signs all over Kingston (and in many other cities as well). In the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, the author, Lynn Truss, discusses how she actually made a giant apostrophe and put it on a stick and stood under signs in her city where an apostrophe was missing. I’m not that crazy. But I will point out a few misguided businesses in the area.

Here’s the deal: if you want to pluralize something that ends with a “y” (let’s use “pony” as our example) then you drop the y and say “Gee, I just love ponies”. If you are referring to something that a pony has (such as his lovely mane) you would write “Look at that pony’s lovely mane!”. If you have more than one pony, then you say “Wow! Look at those ponies’ lovely manes!”. OK, the word pony has lost all meaning. Let’s move on.

Things get tricky when you have a word that ends with an S. The actual rule is still up for debate and it’s doubtful that any conclusion will ever be made. Let’s take the word “Flanders”. Believe it or not, Homer is accurate when he refers to the Flanderses (I have spelled it incorrectly here on purpose so you know what I’m saying). If you take a name like “Flanders” and you want to refer to something he or she possesses, you could do one of two things. You can write “Flanders'” or, as Homer does, you can write “Flanders’s”. I prefer the first option personally.

So, my beef is with signs like “Tim Hortons”, “Lukes!” (they do get a point since their website is accurate), “Chumleighs” and “Lulus”. These signs suggest that there are several men named Tim Horton in this restaurant, many chefs named Luke or that when you enter the salon you’ll find a bunch of Lulus…whatever those are. Three cheers for “Dover’s”, “Kirkpatrick’s”, “Card’s Bakery” and “Ben and Jerry’s” who all make it clear that these names refer to the owners of the establishment.

So I’m kind of picky. Really, it’s all in good fun and I want you to play along too. Send us pictures of other funny, ridiculous or irritating signs in town. They don’t have to be grammar related issues, just weird signs that don’t necessarily get their point across or could have multiple meanings.

Have a look at our Flickr to see what I’m talking about.

4 thoughts on “Punctuation is a powerful thing

  • Well, all I can say is “good for you!” I’m glad that Kingstonist has someone who understands grammar as i had to stop reading for a while due to a proliferation of “it’s” when “its” was meant and so on. So please do clean up Kingstonist and then we can worry about Kingston!

  • That is ridiculous. I’m not convinced that the exclamation mark at the end of your statement is proper form.

  • hahaha! It’s true, the odd mistake gets made on this site but I believe it’s (as in “it is”, thus the apostrophe) because we are so passionate about what we have to say, we don’t always take the time that we should. Not to mention the time crunch of writing everyday. If we had more writers, we could make more time for such editing. Katy? Care to write a post or two? That goes for all of you! Don’t just criticize, participate!!

    Seriously, if you are interested in writing, drop us a line. We’d love to have more people involved to broaden out point of view.

  • Let’s not forget Northern Imports out on McAdoo’s Lane. The side of their building has been emblazoned “Northern Import’s” since the early 90’s.

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