Martha Quinn Needs Punctuation Lessons

By John Walker on January 18th, 2011 at 2:06 pm.

3 out of 10. See me.

ATTENTION PEOPLE OF THE WORLD: When you are referring to a decade by its number, you do not use an apostrophe. It’s easy to see why. If I were to say, “It’s about events that took place in the Eighty’s,” it would be quite obvious it was wrong. It is equally wrong to say that those events took place in the 80’s. The 80’s what? Trousers? So everyone, everywhere, STOP IT.

Talking of which, there’s a game you can play free for an hour called “The 80’s Game with Martha Quinn”. Nnnnnngggggh.

Oh, it’s just everywhere throughout it too. “Answer a variety of questions about the 80’s.”

And yet, fill your bar with eighties star power and it says:

Argh!

Anyway, if you’re less of an arsehole than me and can cope with such things, it’s basically a pub quiz style game that asks you questions about the 80s. Along with some ghastly music and what I assume must be the annoying squawking voice of whoever Martha Quinn might be. (Oh okay, I looked it up. She was an MTV VJ, and at 51 she somehow still looks like she’s in her 20s. That’s 20s, not 20’s.)

Bizarrely the game came out in 2007, with a website that was apparently time travelling from 1995. But it now appears to be doing the rounds as a casual game. It’s on Big Fish, and you can play an embedded version on Shockwave’s site. I should probably add that it’s pretty bloody awful.

And if you want to find out what Martha Quinn’s up to, her official site is here. Where she also can’t spell the decade.

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132 Comments »

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  1. Meat Circus says:

    The Economist Style Guide agrees, which is good enough for me.

    Though I note the insufficiently-pedantic “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” is more sanguine.

    It was acceptable in the ’80s.

    • Mac says:

      That’s the Panda joke isn’t it?

      A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating the sandwich, the panda pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter, and then stands up to go. “Hey!” shouts the manager. “Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn’t pay for your sandwich!”

      The panda yells back at the manager, “Hey man, I am a PANDA! Look it up!”

      The manager opens his dictionary and sees the following definition for panda: “Panda: a bear-like marsupial originating in Asian regions. Known largely for it’s stark black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.”

    • Unaco says:

      When I first heard that joke, it wasn’t set in a restaurant, and that wasn’t the kind of shooting involved.

    • Yargh says:

      Unaco, I suspect you’re thinking of the similar but not quite Koala joke ( http://www.jokebuddha.com/Koala )

    • scottossington says:

      That was a funny joke, I think I like the Panda joke better than the Koala joke cause it has a little bit of the ultra violence.

    • Mac says:

      @Unaco Same here – but i thought i would go with the clean version :)

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      Gap Gen says:

      As John says, it’s all about the 80s, with their stylin’ togas and pimpin’ chariots.

    • Xercies says:

      Don’t you mean stylin’ toga’s and pimping chariot’s

    • gwathdring says:

      It isn’t incorrect to use ‘s to pluralize a group of years. It is proper form to use it for the plural of a number (Write down five 80’s), but many sources claim that the intent of a phrase such as “I love the 1980s” leaves no ambiguity and thus does not require the use of an apostrophe. This is not the same thing as it being patently incorrect. There are sources that accept 1980’s. Also if we look to common usage in addition to the officially discussed rules, that usage of the apostrophe gains a fair bit of ground. Do keep in mind we are working with a living language and as such convention holds stronger argument than common usage but both are important.

      The counter example of “Eighty’s” is somewhat wrong footed, as the issue relates to the apostrophe’s function in pluralizing numbers, not words. You may as well argue for 1980ies. That is kind of cool, though …

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      http://www.amazon.com/Eats-Shoots-Leaves-Commas-Difference/dp/0399244913

      People! He’s talking about the book, which is titled after the joke’s punchline.

  2. Archonsod says:

    ““It’s about events that took place in the Eighty’s,” it would be quite obvious it was wrong.”

    Yes, it should be Eighties.

    EDIT – And technically, the only time an apostrophe should be used is when referring to it as such, though of course it should go at the start rather than end since it’s a contraction – ’80s and not 80’s. Though of course 80/s is also correct if it’s on a price tag.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Schoolboy error. It’s a well-known fact that NO events took place in the eightie’s.

      I AM POSTING TOO QUICKLY

    • Mark says:

      Boom! Ho no he didn’t! Other stupid catch-phrases.

      “’80s” I can understand, because the apostrophe is acting as a contraction for 1980s.

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, I am quite certain the endemic confusion has arisen because of ’80s being correct, but people not understanding why.

    • Berzee says:

      I would like this game better if it was quizzes about the 80’s as in, 80’s A.D.

    • Om says:

      Actually this is only a recent style change. A few decades ago (perhaps as late as the 80s) it was perfectly acceptable to write 1980’s

    • John Walker says:

      It was always wrong. Because it’s meaningless gibberish.

    • Veret says:

      As I understand it, the apostrophe used to be standard practice for pluralizing acronyms and numbers (e.g. “I played many RPG’s this year”). But that’s almost definitely the origin of the godawful greengrocer’s apostrophe, so I’m more than happy to see it die.

    • Wulf says:

      Of course, it’s so fun to tweak out grammar OCD people with it. Especially now in the tenties.

    • Berzee says:

      punctuation OCD

    • Teddy Leach says:

      During my schooling in the 80’s, I was always taught to use an apostrophe. Even my lecturers in university used them. The first time I was told it was ‘supposed’ to be wrong was actually about a month ago. I was also taught that is was always ‘isation’ rather than ‘ization’, which has recently really started to piss me off.

    • Archonsod says:

      “the apostrophe used to be standard practice for pluralizing acronyms and numbers ”

      Nope, the apostrophe contracts, it never pluralises. “RPG’s” is just as wrong, just take the last word of the acronym and look at how it reads – game’s. The correct pluralisation would be the simple “games”, thus “RPGs”.
      Rule of thumb our English teacher used to say is whenever you see ‘s you pronounce it as “es”, which (results may vary according to dialect) is almost always used when talking about something someone owns, for example “Rab’s car” would be pronounced “Rabses car”.

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      Gap Gen says:

      Teddy: British publishers tend to use “isation” and Americans “ization”. The only true way to determine who is correct would be a knife-fight between a reanimated Webster and a time-snatched Johnson.

    • gwathdring says:

      It is quite acceptable to use the apostrophe to pluralize numbers, acronyms and such. The intent is to make otherwise awkwardly unclear plurals obvious as plurals RPGs is unclear, because depending on the typeset and the particular acronym’s capitalization convention, the S can be perceived as part of the acronym. An apostrophe clarifies. This is accepted by many sources (I only have Dianna Hacker on hand) in America at least, and is widely accepted in online grammar compendiums.

      P.S. We have a very changeable language. Keeps it useful. Archaic convention or convention not close enough to usage just breeds confusion, elitism, and L’Acadamie Francais level bullshit. Ignoring common usage is ignoring the fact that you are dealing with a language as opposed to, I don’t know, a sculpture.

    • Veracity says:

      Académie Française

      People get stroppy about all manner of such stuff, but this is a bit rich coming from someone whose entire industry persists in believing “gameplay” is a word. I think even Oxford’s on board with that now, though with a bit of an eccentric definition.

      Wouldn’t the punctuation in that image be the wrong way round even if you did want an apostrophe there? Or is that a font thing? The straight ones make life so much simpler.

    • Shiny says:

      “the apostrophe contracts, it never pluralises”

      Wrong. Lower case letters. “s’s” rather than ss. Also, using an apostrophe to pluralize letters used to be acceptable, and places such as the New York Times still do it.

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      TheApologist says:

      It’s not meaningless gibberish, incidentally.

      You may regard it as incorrect according to the rules of standard English, and in doing so you may be correct, but you still understand the meaning of the text and therefore it is not meaningless gibberish.

      This may help you understand why you don’t really need to care quite so much.

    • Om says:

      @Archonsod and John: Again, this is all true today (though not as common in Amerika AFAIK) but until relatively recently common convention permitted or even encouraged the use of the apostrophe in plurals

      Here’s an easy example – have a glance through any newspaper archive (here’s the Guardian’s: http://archive.guardian.co.uk/) and you’ll see that prior to the 1990s “MPs”, as we would currently write it, is almost always written as “MP’s” or even “M.P’s”. Styles change

  3. Ian says:

    I think I’m going to start adding incorrect apostrophe’s just to hack people off.

  4. Jonathan says:

    1) That apostrophe is also backwards
    2) Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a horrible book and should be burned. It’s one of those books that makes a casual reader feel like they can behave like an expert, like Don’t Make Me Think does for design/usability.

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      Diziet Sma says:

      There are some amusing sections in the wikipedia article on the serial comma.

    • Gassalasca says:

      Exactly.

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      Feste says:

      That was the first thing that I saw, the apostrophe is actually an opening quotation mark.

    • Aankhen says:

      Yeah, it’s a left single quotation mark rather than an apostrophe. ‘ as opposed to ’.

      The book is awesome. Stop dissing it. :-(

  5. Longrat says:

    Well, I guess we can’t complain about the lack of diversity in this site! :D
    TOO FAST

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    stahlwerk says:

    51!? She may need grammar lessons, but she sure as hell does not need advice in how to look half your age.

  7. Berzee says:

    JOHNWALKER:

    Punctuation is not grammar.

    • choconutjoe says:

      If I could make the world understand this I’d die a happy man.

    • Berzee says:

      You’ve very unique requirements for happiness. =)

      John Walker needs (definition? dictionary?) lessons.

    • Jonathan says:

      While we’re being so pedantic, there are not degrees of uniqueness. Something is either unique or it isn’t.

    • Berzee says:

      Yay JOHNWALKER! Choco is one step closer to dying happy! :D

      Jonathan, maychance I was using very in THIS sense:

      “properly entitled to the name or designation”

      and nothing to do with degrees.

      Also: “Many commentators have objected to the comparison or modification (as by somewhat or very) of unique, often asserting that a thing is either unique or it is not. Objections are based chiefly on the assumption that unique has but a single absolute sense, an assumption contradicted by information readily available in a dictionary.”

    • Jonathan says:

      I’m a little unclear on what these myriad senses of “unique” might be. It’s certainly not easy to find such an example in a dictionary (e.g. http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=define%3Aunique&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a ).

      So far as your point about “properly entitled to the name or designation” goes, surely that is in reference to descriptions such as “the Very Reverend Joe Bloggs.”

      Chicago Manual Of Style 15th Ed (passage 5.90) would also like to disagree with you. I’ll take CMOS over a random quotation from the Internet any day. “Unique” is what CMOS calls an “uncomparable adjective,” and it specifically disallows the use of “very” as a modifier.

    • Berzee says:

      http://lmgtfy.com/?q=%22properly+entitled+to+the+name+or+designation%22&l=1

      Both of my quotes were from Merriam-Webster.com though I don’t know how authoritative you consider that to be (and I don’t so much care for authoritative except when I’m being silly). Webster also has the other definition of unique as meaning “unusual”.

      The quote they have for “very” in that sense is:

  8. choconutjoe says:

    Listen to what David Crystal has to say people:

    • John Walker says:

      Noooooooo! Crystal seems to know less about apostrophes than my cat.

      The gibberish he speaks in that interview is horrendous.

    • choconutjoe says:

      The point is that nobody knows half as much as they think they do. It’s an inconsistent, arbitrary system that isn’t moderated by anyone or anything. It’s just a convention and, like all conventions, subject to change. No one has the authority to say what’s right or wrong and anyone who thinks they do is deluding themselves.

    • Richard Clayton says:

      Aaargh!!!! (in response to the Newsnight Link)

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      stahlwerk says:

      Well, the practice of denoting possessive/genitive case by appending ‘s or s’ and thus making it identical to the contracted form of “to be” is really only a relatively young english language quirk, and is so inconsistent with the rest of the germanic language family, that a case can be made in saying that it itself was introduced by “erroneously” contracting Name + his, like “that is Peter his car”*. Why not change it back, then, when all it does is clutter up the sentences and facilitate errors?

      *see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxon_genitive and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His_genitive

      Edit: on the other hand, I guess the point is to avoid confusion with the plural form. Oh, why don’t you just employ weak declension plural like all the other toungen do? ;-)

    • John Walker says:

      It is not inconsistent on any level. The apostrophe represents that something is missing.

      Originally in English possession was indicated with an “es”. “Johnes pedantic ranting,” for instance. The ‘e’ is replaced by the apostrophe, and now serves a useful function to remove ambiguity about plurals and possession.

      There are no exceptions to this. At all. It is perfectly consistent. People’s understanding of it, however, is not.

    • Gassalasca says:

      John, you’ve been listening to Nick too much. The history of English punctiuation (which has nothing to do with grammar, as someone pointed out above) has never been simple, straightforward and unambiguous.
      The consistency you speak of is very recent, and even then only if we discount large swathes of actual usage.

      Trust me, David Crystal knows more about the history and development of English language (both punctuation and grammar, though probably not the phonology) than all the RPS readers and authors combined.

    • Richard Clayton says:

      There are not enough games about saving apostrophes.

    • Berzee says:

      “Originally in English possession was indicated with an “es”. “Johnes pedantic ranting,” for instance. The ‘e’ is replaced by the apostrophe, and now serves a useful function to remove ambiguity about plurals and possession.

      There are no exceptions to this. At all. It is perfectly consistent.”

      So when you said “Shockwave’s site” above, would that have originally been Shockwavees site?

    • choconutjoe says:

      Sorry John, whoever told you that didn’t know what they were talking about. The ‘es’ you’re referring to dates from a time when spelling and punctuation were even less standardized than they are now. Also, how things may have been pronounced or spelled centuries ago is no justification for how they should be spelled in modern English.

      The apostrophe is also terrible at distinguishing ambiguity. Using an apostrophe in King’s Cross might distinguish between lots of kings crossing and a cross that belongs to a king, but it still doesn’t distinguish between a cross that belongs to a king and a blues musician who’s in a bad mood.

      Also, in the Newsnight video, Crystal talks about using an apostrophe in i’s to differentiate it from is, something that would not be allowed by the ‘only as a contraction of -es’ theory you espouse. So avoiding ambiguity is no support for your argument at all.

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      Dolphan says:

      David Crystal has been pretty close to the world’s foremost expert on the English language for decades; I’m pretty sure he knows what he’s talking about.

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      Feste says:

      It’s hard to claim that anything was applied consistently in English, seeing as literacy was very low for the last thousand-odd years . People didn’t even write their names consistently, let alone grammar.

      Go back to 1300AD and you have Chaucer and the unknown poet of the Pearl poems writing in entirely differently dialects of what is recognisably the same language. Much of the vocabulary of the time was nicked from the French, mainly when talking about technology, and elsewhere.

      My favourite stolen word is ‘dunk’, taken from the Norse, I like the idea of Viking raiders dunking a Rich Tea biscuit.

    • Gassalasca says:

      Also, check out this Language Log article:

      http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002436.html

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      Saul says:

      @John: “its” breaks the rule. Sorry John, Crystal is right. I used to be a grammar nazi, but it’s always going to be losing argument. Language changes and usage trumps rules.

  9. Dinger says:

    A. I survived the Eighties one time already.
    B. Mojo Nixon, who rose to fame ripping off Jonathan Richman licks and then cashed out on Elvis’ backside, did have a song that captured the Martha Quinn 80s Zeitgeist pretty well, including the manner in which MTV ruled the waves. Unfortunately, I don’t believe you can link to “stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin”.
    C. In any case, this seems more apropos of the current retro movement.

  10. Berzee says:

    Also, I am scared to even click on the link to this game. It’s not brown enough for modern times.

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    Colthor says:

    You keep complaining about websites from 1995, but I’ve not seen a single animated, flaming skull on them yet.

  12. Richard Clayton says:

    I approve of this grammar rant! Particularly as a glaring grammatical error appears on the BBC news site and there is no link to click to inform them that they have made an abhorrent, eye-gouging foul-up.

    Page in question: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12216545

    I wonder if I should escalate it to OFCOM!

    • Jonathan says:

      Oh God, don’t get me started about the BBC’s copywriting. Full of bad spelling and basic grammatical errors. I think I see a few glaring errors every day.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      During some flooding or some other such weather-based destruction I heard a BBC OB reporter suggest that if certain conditions had been different, ‘things would have been less good’. It’s bad enough having hyperbole and buzz-words thrown at us by news journalism but I find clumsy language equally abhorrent. Just to clarify, this was regional news and not CBBC’s Newsround.

  13. Brumisator says:

    Erm… punctuation mishaps aside, why would I want to play a poopy ‘8’0’s’ quiz game?

  14. Unaco says:

    I’ve resisted… I’ve tried to hold back. But I can’t, not any longer… I have to post it. A Tribute to Martha (and her Muffin). Not safe for work, I would say. Is Mojo Nixon. Pretty poor quality, actual song doesn’t start til about 4 minutes in, is the only video version I could find on the internet. Is on the Frenzy album with Skid Roper, if any one is interested.

  15. Novotny says:

    My personal bugbear is the trailing ellipses, solely employed by utter morons all over the internets.
    You know the sort: every other sentence ends like this…. I want to kill people who do that. Do they think it imbues some sort of gravitas to their twittering, misspelt inanities? If you can’t construct and finish a sentence don’t fucking bother starting one near me.

    edit:: that sounds so ungrammatical, but i think it’s correct.

    • John Walker says:

      More of this sort of thing.

    • Jonathan says:

      Reminds me of something I saw once with an old funk singer saying he hates it when songs on records just fade out and that bands ought to come up with a proper ending or just not bother.

    • Wilson says:

      That irritates me as well. When did it become a thing? It was like one day I woke up and people…
      were writing sentences…
      in single lines of a few words…
      and sticking ellipses on them…
      it makes me very angry…

      also…
      apologies for posting too fast again…

    • Dinger says:

      Psst., dude: put a comma between the protaxis and epitaxis.

      And the first line should be “My personal bugbear is the … trailing ellipses…”
      since use of is implied or even elided.

    • Novotny says:

      Oh god Wilson, I know you’re just being illustrative but I might have to kill you anyway

    • President Weasel says:

      I would like to reserve a seat on this particular bugbear bandwagon. I don’t have any problem with this construction when deployed sparingly, but I can’t stand to see people posting sentence fragment after sentence fragment all ending in “…”
      I can’t work out how it became inexplicably popular to do this.

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      stahlwerk says:

      … so I guess you didn’t see that coming!

    • Gassalasca says:

      Yeah, I’ve been guilty of this, but recognised it in time… I hope. :D

    • Wilson says:

      @Novotny – Mmm, reading it over I’m thinking I might have to kill me.

    • President Weasel says:

      You know, it would be at least arguably justifiable to use an ellipsis at the end of that sentence…

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      oceanclub says:

      You could be talking about me….

      P.

    • edwardoka says:

      All this talk of ellipses makes me want to squash some circles. What’s the plural of ellipsis then? Ellipseseses…?

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      @Jonathan: That fade out shit is the sole reason for my hatred of everything Phil Collins has ever done.

    • Jonathan says:

      @outoffeelinsobad

      Really? That’s the ONLY reason?

  16. Novotny says:

    Dinger – I know my post was poorly constructed; it just spewed out like angry, unmanageable venom and was fired off before I even considered it. I maintain that there is a difference between poor self-editing and wilful, bloody-minded ignorance.

  17. The Innocent says:

    John Walker, you are become savior to punctuation in need. Really, thank you.

    If only we had a John Walker to champion all rules of the language. The one I want most is a master of proper tenses. Then someone could inform everyone of the tenses of “to lose.” I feel embarrassed for people when they talk about the things they “loose.” For instance, one of my Facebook friends just said on Sunday that he “is loosing all interest in socialising [sic].”

    Also, “led.” You have not “lead people on a merry chase,” you “led them.”

    Also, … ARGH! I must stop. This could take all day.

    • President Weasel says:

      Perhaps he meant he was releasing the grip he had on his interest in socialising?

    • Archonsod says:

      Sign me up for the lose one, it really does get my goat.

    • edwardoka says:

      While we’re hitting these phenomena at their peak of popularity…

      Don’t you hate it when people post photographs of “randoms”?
      They’re not “randoms”, for lawd’s sake – that’s not even a word – they’re your friends! (had to think HARD about that last sentence fragment before posting)

      If you took photos of random people you’d get some funny looks/punched/stabbed/arrested.

  18. WJonathan says:

    Back on topic, please. More jokes about Panda’s.

  19. Zwebbie says:

    Now imagine you’re a foreigner whose language actually makes half a bit of sense (we use years 80, no apostrophes needed), and entering the wonderful world of Internet where you have to use English to communicate with half of the people.

    It’s worse still when your fellow countrymen pick up English things and apply them to their own language. Dutch doesn’t use apostrophes for possessives, except when just adding an s would change the way your pronounce it!

  20. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    I’m glad this post has over 60 comments.

  21. pilouuuu says:

    Wait… The decade is the 80s. So the correct usage would be “The 80s’ game” considering it is a genitive case. It is something like “The game of the 80s”.

    If they called it “The 80’s game”, then it would also be a genitive case meaning “The game of the 80″. Eighty what? People? The number? Programmers? We don’t know.

    By the way, English is not my native language, so I may be mistaken.

  22. DrunkDog says:

    This page has become like the horrendous grammatical pedantry-fest that marrs the otherwise marvellous Kermode / Mayo podcast. Grrrrrr.

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    Feste says:

    Would this be the wrong time to mention the Oxford comma, or would such a topic create an irreperable schism in RPS readership?

  24. Premium User Badge

    Feste says:

    Would this be the right time to ask the author’s opinion on the Oxford Comma? Or would such a move lead to an irreperable schism in the RPS readership?

  25. Premium User Badge

    Feste says:

    Would now be the right time to ask the author’s opinion on the Oxford Comma? Or would such a move be liable to create an irreperable schism in the RPS readership?

  26. durns says:

    60 posts. 58 about grammar. Two about Martha Quinn looking like a pretty damn cute 25-year-old.

    What a shame.

    • Unaco says:

      My (first) post was more to do with Mojo Nixon, and my second had to do with a dirty joke involving a Panda… even then, grammar and Martha Quinn’s ageless existence are still more interesting things to comment about than an ’80s Pop/Pub Quiz.

  27. Jimbo says:

    The game belongs to 80. With Martha Quinn.

  28. Wulf says:

    The whole point of language is that it’s meant to be expressive and therefore it’s oft used as an art form. I frequently play around with grammar and punctuation, not to achieve that which is correct, but rather that which is the most aesthetically pleasing – I have fun and it likely causes the brains of those who’re far too literal and static with their ways of thinking to turn themselves inside out.

    Everyone win.coms

    The thing is – so long as people understand each other, we shouldn’t really care about this at all. Language as a form of expression is so, so much more important than language used properly. Some of the best authors have oft mangled language to their own ends, even going so far as to destroy the standard book format. (I love you, Pratchett.) Language should be about trying to understand and convey on a very intuitive level, it should be a very mutative thing, it should never be static.

    That’s why I tend to view those who impose upon others ‘proper use’ as solely being a bit arrogant, since essentially it’s just opinion at the end of the day. The ‘proper use’ for various terms changes all the time, but we all seem to get by fine anyway. I see the people who impose grammatical perfection and purity of punctuation upon people as the sort of artists who believe that everyone should paint this way, or that everyone should compose music that way.

    Personally, I think what a person is saying and how they’re saying it is more important and interesting than whether they actually said it correctly according to all the varying, disagreeing laws of language or not.

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      Feste says:

      I think most people would agree with most of what you’re saying. The point of difference is where to draw the line between personal expressivity and the ease of understanding from correct grammar.

      For example, quite often in programming it’s not what you say that’s important, but how you say it. With a less trivial example, language can be vitally important in teaching as otherwise you might not be teaching what you think you’re teaching.

      As always, it’s all about the context.

    • The Innocent says:

      I agree to a point. You can’t really play with the rules for aesthetic purposes unless you know the rules though. That’s one difference between great authors who know when to choose not to employ a particular rule, versus shoddy writers who compose poorly because they don’t know them. And the difference is tremendously noticeable. If the purpose of language is expression, then rules need to exist in order to standardize and allow for that expression.

      I’m a solipsist at heart, and as such I believe true communication is impossible, yet worthy to attempt. In a way, I feel that this is at the core of humanity’s artistic struggle — that art is an attempt to communicate when complete communication is inherently impossible. So it’s fine to play around with the rules of punctuation and grammar in order to better convey what you’re trying to say (Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite contemporary examples of this), but it’s only really possible when you’re working from within that framework to begin with. Misemploying possessive apostrophes and using entirely wrong tenses of words (per my examples above) leads to confusion, not heightened understanding.

      And I find that people who talk about “disagreeing laws of language” tend to not be able to provide actual solid examples, and tend to be poor writers themselves. They’re like the people who say that Einstein got bad grades in order to excuse their own poor marks. I’m not accusing you personally of poor writing, and I think we agree in principle, but really, I haven’t seen many good examples of actual English language disagreements.

    • Zwebbie says:

      Wulf: the athore coments al totol lies!

    • TeeJay says:

      “…Misemploying possessive apostrophes and using entirely wrong tenses of words (per my examples above) leads to confusion, not heightened understanding…”

      Indeed. If someone is using language to be expressive, as an art form or to be aesthetically pleasing then when someone writes “about loosing their dog” I have to decide if they have set their dog loose (off the leash) or actually mean they have lost it. I also have to decide if they are being ironic by using the wrong verb or have simply misspelt.

      Living in London I overlook, ignore or internally translate all sorts of unconventional language – written and spoken – due to the vast range of native languages / nationalities / levels of literacy / dialects and slang spoken by people around me. The written form typically moves behind the spoken form and tries to keep up accurately with spoken language, but changing lose to loose isn’t really doing this, doesn’t help get at the words being spoken or the meaning. On the other hand adding “innit” to the end of a sentence instead of “isn’t it / doesn’t it / hasn’t it” etc is reflecting a local spoken form and can help express a certain style, voice or tone.

  29. Fumarole says:

    The same should be said for CDs and RPGs too.

  30. Jake says:

    Won’t someone please think of the children? I saw a youngster on a popular-but-evil friend face website say “I like pea’s” and the next comment was “there is no comma in peas lol”. If we don’t correct these little shits, in just a few years newspapers will be called The Time’s and people will just always say ‘u’ and people won’t even laugh anymore they will just say lol – which is a ridiculous acronym anyway as it isn’t possible to laugh in any way other than out loud, not without looking crazy at least. And the ellipsis thing… is the worst, but there are others, I met someone the other say who never uses question marks. Don’t you find it strange when questions have no question mark.

    • Berzee says:

      Re: LOL

      All of my laughter was silent until I was about 10-15 years old (bad judge of times past) when my brother went away to college and would call us sometimes and we’d talk to him on the speakerphone and I would have to learn to laugh out loud because otherwise he couldn’t tell that I was laughing.

      I think the reason I learned to laugh silently to begin with is because I always did school in a library.

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      While I agree with you, I don’t think the situation is that grave. I believe that society is quite sturdy in these terms and general language awareness won’t allow any noticeable changes. So, if a kid matures with that kind of knowledge about his/her language (examples of which you have provided) and would be ready to operate within a society, he/her would either do something that doesn’t require “excessive” language abilities, hence they won’t leave any impact in that are or would have to learn and adapt to a tradition set of rules.

      Also, don’t forget about parents that must take part in increasing their children’s language aptitudes. It’s a big (off-)topic, but suffice it to say, I was provided with books for a voluntary read at an early enough age and so I was getting to know the “right” version of my language, firstly it was just visually but then it was codified in school. And that initial visual part is very important, as things in school don’t stick to kids too well. I was lucky, I guess, because it seems that most parents don’t give a fuck in that department.

      By the way, this stuff is happening virtually everywhere. I’m Russian, and I ardently despise the good half of Russian-speaking internet. Sheer idiocy, ignorance, utter stupidity, and the use of language only underlines that. I haven’t even found any kind of place where the amount of intelligent people exceeds that of those damn yokels. In all fairness, though, I’m not exactly trying that hard.

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      While I agree with you, I don’t think the situation is that grave. I believe that society is quite sturdy in these terms and general language awareness won’t allow any noticeable changes. So, if a kid matures with that kind of knowledge about his/her language (examples of which you have provided) and would be ready to operate within a society, he/her would either do something that doesn’t require “excessive” language abilities, hence they won’t leave any impact in that are or would have to learn and adapt to a tradition set of rules.

      Also, don’t forget about parents that must take part in increasing their children’s language aptitudes. It’s a big (off-)topic, but suffice it to say, I was provided with books for a voluntary read at an early enough age and so I was getting to know the “right” version of my language, firstly it was just visually but then it was codified in school. And that initial visual part is very important, as things in school don’t stick to kids too well. I was lucky, I guess, because it seems that most parents don’t give a fuck in that department.

      By the way, this stuff is happening virtually everywhere. I’m Russian, and I ardently despise the good half of Russian-speaking internet. Sheer idiocy, ignorance, utter stupidity, and the use of language only underlines that. I haven’t even found any kind of place where the amount of intelligent people exceeds that of those damn yokels. In all fairness, though, I’m not exactly trying that hard.

      Ъ

    • Starky says:

      “lol” is a perfectly good word in common usage now – understood to be basically “Amusing, but not actually worthy of a genuine laugh – producing an internal mental chuckle” which is a beautiful irony for the acronym.

      “which is a ridiculous acronym anyway as it isn’t possible to laugh in any way other than out loud”
      Not even close to true, and it has never been true – it has always been common to laugh internally, or near silently.
      The nose laugh for example is fairly common – and something I’ve heard comedians complain about. That is people find something funny, but don’t laugh – they chuckle with the mouth closed, just snorting air through the nose.
      Comics for example have been known to plant a few people to laugh out loud, because once you get a few people laughing out loud, all those people internally laughing will begin to laugh out loud too.
      Mob mentality, those few people laughing (and not stupidly or overly, like some bad laugh track in a sitcom, just audible chuckling) give permission for everyone to display their amusement audibly.

      Hell it is why laugh tracks were invented in the first place, because producers found that it worked with recorded laughs too.
      It’s also why a lot of comedians also tend to laugh at their own jokes (or purposefully flub jokes to laugh at themselves), or start with crowd interaction so they can laugh at things the audience says, because once they l augh on stage, that also gives permission for audience laughs.

    • Soon says:

      I once received a text from my aunt stating: “Your uncle’s had a heart attack. lol”.
      She thought it meant “lots of love”.

    • Jake says:

      Is chuckling with your mouth closed or snorting air through your nose really laughing though? And even then, that is still ‘out loud’ right – it’s just a different sort of noise to a hearty hahaha. Isn’t laughter, by definition, out loud? I don’t mean to argue semantics anyway,it just seems to me that typing haha is more human. I love how different people type their particular laughs in different ways, like a lot of Europeans laugh like hihi or eheh. It always reminds me of how characters in Alan Moore comics laugh, like Rorscharch or the Invisible Man. Far more interesting than a rubbish lol.

  31. mbp says:

    I scored 16,799 and am declared “Righteous”

    I guess I probably shouldn’t have admitted to that.

  32. Premium User Badge

    phlebas says:

    What, no score posts?
    18168. I am Righteous.

  33. Starky says:

    I’ll never understand Grammar/Punctuation rule enforcer OCD types, when basically every single leading authority on language, the history of English and current usage basically agrees that there are no rules, just guidelines.

    There are style guides for set publications that quite often disagree and generally accepted standards, but even these have contradictions. But it is ridiculous to try and force any kind of set usage for the apostrophe in English given that any rule you decide will have 100+ years of common usage against it.

    I swear this is a issue that only arises because people want to show off their educated (degree level plus) superiority, that they are correct and use their “rules” of English language to look down upon those people who probably couldn’t care less.
    Rules which are written in chalk on the street of common usage – and it’s raining.

    80’s is fine. So is 80s and ’80s. you could argue for any of them being correct and find hundreds of usage examples going back decades.

    I say hail the green grocers apostrophe – and use it merrily.

    • choconutjoe says:

      I swear this is a issue that only arises because people want to show off their educated (degree level plus) superiority, that they are correct and use their “rules” of English language to look down upon those people who probably couldn’t care less.

      That’s almost the worst thing about it. Anyone trying to enforce this kind of prescriptivism is clearly profoundly ignorant of the history of English and language use in general. And yet they manage to portray themselves as being a source of authority, despite the fact that their claims have all the academic credibility of astrology or creationism.

      It’s just mad.

    • Gassalasca says:

      Can I hug you, Joe?

    • gwathdring says:

      Yay!

    • Starky says:

      I think this convo might have just given me a new forum/board signature…

      Perhaps:
      Linguistic prescriptivism is the Homoeopathy of language.

      Edit: hmm no, doesn’t quite work; oh well I’m far to tired to be witty right now.

    • Jake says:

      I know that English evolves and it’s a great language because of how much it has changed, I just feel like I need to correct grammar or punctuation sometimes because the apparent next evolution looks so horrible – I worry that in the future people will write like txt msg and say ‘ax’ when they mean ask.

      Achewood has some opinions on apostrophes too: http://bit.ly/i7IJF6

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Starky:

      There is nothing wrong with arguing in favour of a common and current standard or what you think are the ‘best’ guidelines, according to whatever argument you want to put forward.

      “Forcing set usage” is simply arguing in favour of clarity of communication by gaining agreement about what things mean, what written words describe or represent, what language and meaning they correspond to. You are only “forcing” it in as far as you persuade people to adopt your proposed guidelines.

      There are also situations where doing a spell-check from a suitable dictionary (eg UK english, US english) is important because you are representing an organisation or it is some other important document or piece of work.

      Other situations – eg personal emails and texts – it really doesn’t matter and people typically transcribe their natural spoken language and use whatever they feel like. This is often more personal but can make it hard to understand unless you now how that person speaks and can understand how they are transcribing their speech / accent / idiom / slang (eg they may be doing it phonetically or in a hybrid language).

      So sure “common usage” leads and formal ‘rules’ follow, but these guidelines (eg standard spellings) have a lot of value in for example allowing a lot more people to understand each other and take part in shared debates. It is possible to learn lots of different guidelines and chose a suitable one depending on the context. It is possible to advocate a ‘style guide’ (or guides) for good and valid reasons without pretending that language is fixed, absolute and unchanging.

      In the past I have had to think about this a bit in the context of teaching English to school kids in Japan – eg advising about when they should use formal or informal phrases, advising them about differing UK and US spellings. In an educational context it alway made sense to advise they used ‘standard’ and ‘formal’ written English while at the same time teaching them colloquial spoken English. I didn’t chose this because it was more “correct” but because it would be more helpful for them to learn both versions – one more likely found in newspapers, letters, a business context, science paper or novel – the other more useful when watching movies, in songs or when actually talking to people they meet while travelling.

  34. EthZee says:

    Damn this comments thread. All the passive-aggressive belming and squealing about the correct usage of grammar and punctuation makes me want to PUNCH KITTENS. IN THEIR STUPID FACES.

  35. bonjovi says:

    If you understood my message and I am happy with your understanding of that message, what does punctuation and/or grammar matter?

    language is a tool to share thoughts or pass on information, if we achieving this goal why care ?

    or is John a type of Lawful character form D&D ?

  36. MartinNr5 says:

    With english not being my first language I have given up trying to be up to date with exactly all the rules of its grammar and punctuation.

    I try my best to use the apostrophe correct (or ist that “correctly” and if so, why?) but if I’m unsure where to put it I try to rephrase myself so that it either A) is clear what I’m trying to say or B) eliminates the need for it to begin with.

    The hardest part for me, even when writing in swedish, is to maintain proper tense and I find it especially hard when writing fiction.

    Edit: Found this good reason on why to use proper english while looking for other stuff: http://www.snopes.com/business/deals/bananas.asp

    • adonf says:

      ‘Correctly’ because it’s an adverb here, not an adjective. It applies to the whole sentence and not just a single noun. “In a correct fashion” would be another way to express what you said, and in this case ‘correct’ is an adjective applied to ‘fashion’. Maybe.

  37. KeithMJ says:

    As the webmaster for the Martha Quinn Presents site, I must humbly fall on my sword for this one. All of our design documents specified “80s” but somehow in development, the apostrophe was added. I missed it in my review and have since made the correction.

    Luckily, I am more adept at reading site traffic referrers and found your article. We hope you will continue to visit us in the future. The site is still under development, so stick with us.

    As for the game, we have no control over it. That one is out of my hands.

    Thanks for the feedback! I loved the discussion.