Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Explanation to Follow

Bonus points to anyone

 who has an idea

of what we were thinking

when we posted these pics!

Monday, November 24, 2008

ἡ ἀπόστροφος

All righty then.  I will try to keep this short and on-topic.  But given that everything is connected (as I may have mentioned before!) it is sometimes difficult to sharply define the so-called topic.


In looking at our analytics, I see that many people have come here in search of something that we do not have – and yet it would make sense for Google and/or Yahoo to point them this way.  So I feel a certain obligation to help folks with what they are seeking here. 


We are naturally going to start with our second most common request.  We’ll answer the number one request in a few days.  Maybe.


Apparently, many people have come to Perpetual H.O.P.E. seeking grammar advice.  

Okay – stop with the hooting and the jeering and pay attention.  People are not seeking general grammar advice; they specifically want to know what the plural of ‘Christmas’ is.  I suspect Google sends them here because one of our posts was titled, What’s the Plural of Christmas?  


The common rule regarding plurals is so easy that it’s amazing so many of us get it wrong; 

you add an S to the end of the word.


Unless the word ends in an S or a Z.  Or a CH or an SH.  Or a X.

Then you add an ES. 

Unless the word is ‘ox’ in which case you add an EN.  

Other than that just add an S. 

Unless the word ends with an O.  

In which case you add an ES. As in Dan Quayle's least favorite tuber.

Unless it is one of the words like ‘auto’ or ‘memo’ that doesn’t need the E.  


Memo is short for memorandum, which is the singular form of the word memoranda.  

Which is similar to the word Data.  

Data is one of those ‘special’ words that have been abused to the point of grammar people almost giving up on it.  In fact, some style guides suggest that using the correct singular of Data sounds affected.  Or dare we say it, elite.  Therefore, if you are in a job interview your best bet is to not use the word at all.  If you must – here is a simple guide that will fit on a sticky note:


datum is, data are, 

this datum, these data


However, since nobody came to Perpetual H.O.P.E. seeking datum, we must return to Christmas.  

We’ve established that words that end in S get an ES to make them plural.


Unless it is a word like Cactus.  Which becomes Cacti.  I used to live in Vegas – the home of the Flying Elvi.  And my first editor used to talk about a radio preacher in Del Rio Texas that would offer his listeners glow in the dark Jesi.  So a person could be forgiven for wanting to pluralize Christmas into Christmi.  Forgiven, yet still mistaken.


Yes, two whole pages just to tell you unequivocally that:


The Plural of Christmas is Christmases! 


Yeah, it looks wrong.  But what would you suggest, just throwing an apostrophe at it? 


Many of us are okay on plurals but bad with apostrophes.  In fact we are so bad with apostrophes that it interferes with our otherwise decent pluralizing skills. 


Which reminds me of something else we need to talk about.  But I don’t want this post to get long and convoluted so just a little visual reminder for me and a hint for you:


Okay, where were we?  

Wear we’re wii?  

Ware whirr wee?  

Oh yeah, discussing how simple English grammar is!  I must confess that I made a heretofore-uncorrected grammar error in a previous post.  We were discussing Isla ñ Rum and I used the phrase:  


a friend of my husbands'


Well apparently, this implies I have more than one husband.  

When the error was pointed out to me, I decided I would rather have people think I was a bigamist than completely ignorant of basic grammar.  

Actually, I looked up the proper use of apostrophes and became quite boggled down by the subject.


Here is one example I found:



Those things over there are my husband's. 

(Those things over there belong to my husband.)

 Those things over there are my husbands. 

(I'm married to those men over there.)


So apparently I am not the only one with this particular difficulty.


Even after visiting The Humble Apostrophe I still had doubts as to how to refer to the singular (yet married)  friend of my one and only husband.  This really shouldn’t be so difficult but I’m not the only one struggling here. 


Many people use an apostrophe s when they simply want to make a noun plural.  This is referred to as a grocer's apostrophe – named after the common sight of Apple’s 1.49 a pound. 


There are entire websites devoted to mocking people who get this and other grammar ‘basics’ wrong.   Everybody needs a hobby I guess.  There is even an Apostrophe Preservation Society, or something like that.  Two of its members were recently arrested for defacing a sign at the Grand Canyon.


Its members? 


Yes, Its members.  The apostrophe is used to denote possession, except in this example.  According to something I found on the Internet:


Its is one of the few words that indicates possession without an apostrophe. For example, “The dog is eating its bone”. This may seem confusing, but it follows the same pattern as other possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, yours, ours, theirs.


I found one site that said the only time you use an apostrophe is to denote a missing letter.  Then he went on to explain that if you look at Chaucer’s English and even older German that there is an es missing from possessive words.  Which would almost work for me except when we start talking about plural possessives. 


When, among other things I learned:


The final tricky situation here is whether possessive nouns that end in s get an apostrophe only, or the apostrophe-s. Unless they're Moses or Jesus, or some other Biblical entity, they get an apostrophe-s. 


Matthew 15:30 (K J V)— And great multitudes came unto Him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and He healed them.


An example of another word that frequently vexes me:

princess = princess' tiara

Okay.  What if her brothers were cross dressers?  Would that be The Princes’s Tiaras.  Or the Princess Tiaras? 


Then there are my brothers-in-law and their wives.  That would be my brothers-in-law’s wives.  And since they are girly-girls I could even talk about my brothers-in-law’s wives’ tiaras. 


Note – I only have one brother-in-law and I would bet a hundred bucks his wife does not wear a tiara. 


So I tried.  I sincerely tried to understand enough that I could explain it simply.  I give up.  I’m just going to sticky note the following examples to my monitor and hope all my future sentences fit these formulae!



Ø      My husband’s friend’s brothers. 

(the brothers of the friend of my husband)


Ø      My husband’s friends’ brothers. 

(the brothers of several of the friends of my husband)


Ø      My husbands’ friend’s brothers.

(the brothers of a friend of several of my husbands)


Ø      My husbands’ friends’ brothers. 

 (the brothers of several of the friends of several of my husbands)


(And yes, I did just turn sticky note into a verb.  You might even say I verbified it!  And it felt good!)  But why all these possessive apostrophes when we were discussing the plural of Christmas?  Because people tend to throw apostrophes at words they are unsure of.  And it’s not just me. 


There is a new movie being released now called Four Christmases.  Fine.  When you first show a movie you must have a special opening night presentation called a premier.  The premier technically belongs to the movie.  So there have been recent news stories about The Four Christmases’ Premier.  Which is fine if this info is just copied directly from the PR folks.  But some folks rearrange the sentence to read  The Four Christmases’ Premier.  

What adds to the difficulty here is that the apostrophe, the single quotation mark, and the single prime all share one key on the typewriter. Remember when we used to underline proper titles?  Well, with the common practice of underlining hyperlinks that is no longer the convention and  we are all free to do what we want with titles – including putting them in single quotes.  But Word and WordPerfect and other word processors will automatically change the symbol to the one they think you want.  So some mis-punctuation is actually the result of pushy computer programs.   Yep, I think from now on I will claim that all my errors are the result of auto-correct and auto-format and smart-quote.


Oh, and most apostrophe fiends think it’s wrong to use an apostrophe for initials such as Straight A’s or a Collection of CD’s or even numbers as in That 70’s Show.   I’m thinking they should just take a deep breath and save their scorn for people who mix up their, there and they’re.  


In any case, Christmas’s coming so I hope all your Christmases are bright.  I may even wish some of our overseas friends a merry Christmass.

 PS - I have no desire to point out other people's errors.  But I did find it funny that when I was looking up the Flying Elvi to include a link I noticed they had a button on their page for the Flying Santa's.  If we weren't in a Christmas mode and we weren't discussing the use of apostrophes when going from plural to possesive I would never mention this - but it made me laugh today!