Mastering The Apostrophe [by Steven Ilchev, Lichfield, Staffordshire]

Discussion in 'Tutorial Examples' started by brontopot72, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. brontopot72 Local Tutor - Private Tutor

    It is somewhat alarming to countenance the staggering number of people who are so not au fait with the function of the apostrophe. This is another sad indictment of the nonchalant approach with regards to teaching people the unquestionably essential subject of English Grammar the way it should absolutely be taught. Instead people are being both patronised and compromised and we end up with so-called native-speaking adults churning out sentences of the "johnnys cars parked in the garage" or "wheres the lichfield cathedral situated?" ilk! It is a little nauseating, to say the least and those who fail to take cognisance of that are failing the children of our great nation.

    Some might say that understanding the actual use of the apostrophe (i.e. denoting possessive case or merely contracting two words) is of little relevance to their cosy existence but I beg to differ. It is cardinally fallacious to minimise the importance of something like this and for me finding out that so many children and adults alike who claim English as their mother tongue are demonstratively clueless about such a fundamental aspect of our language is all the more exasperating.

    There are also those who opt to brandish the poor old apostrophe like confetti anywhere they see fit in a word rather than completely overlooking it or consigning it to the overflowing linguistic waste-paperbasket. The results are equally hideous:

    "Ryans' coin's are making a jingly noise in his jackets pocket's!"
    "Jack Wagners didgeridoo kept me awake last night. It's noise drove me ditty!"

    The apostrophe DOES PLAY an important role in our language, therefore, it should NEVER EVER be misused!
  2. DDonnelly Local Tutor - Private Tutor

    If that's your biggest worry you must have an easy life. The apostrophe is by no means fundamental to the English language. However, I agree that seeing misuse of the apostrophe (I find overuse is more common) can be frustrating. That is why I was looking forward to reading your post, listed under the tutorial examples section, for a piece of insightful advice on the subject. I was disappointed when I merely found a Radio 4 style rant which is likely to put off potential clients.

    We have to remember that we are teaching children. The challenges they face when learning to listen, talk, read and write in their language are myriad. It is dangerous to focus on one common error and give it false importance. Some people focus on on the immaturity of overusing exclamation marks in a piece of writing - what would they think of your post? Clearly otherwise (aside from your repetition of 'alarming' in the first sentence) you are perfectly capable of communicating cogently in writing.

    NB Phrases like 'so-called native-speaking adults' and 'children and adults alike who claim English as their mother tongue' are offensive. Everyone has a native language. Making a mistake in using it does not affect our right to identify it as our own.
  3. brontopot72 Local Tutor - Private Tutor

    Unquestionably Valid Concerns [by Steven Ilchev, Lichfield,Staffordshire]

    Dear D. Donnelly,

    Fair point about my repetition of the word 'alarming'. Incredibly well-spotted! I am not infallible and I can accept valid criticism. I'll fix that in a moment.

    Other than that, what an unparallelled over-reaction on thy part, Sir/Madam and I must admit to being somewhat insulted by patronising comments such as 'you are quite capable of expressing yourself cogently in writing'. I am a freelance writer (poetry, prose and plays, etc.) and I take pride in my mother tongue, therefore, I have every right to air my concerns about the way it is being desecrated by our misguided educational powers that be.

    I have hardly over-used exclamation marks and I am not some immature scally-wag ranting and raving. If you read my previous post thoroughly you would have undoubtedly noticed that I was hardly rebuking people in general but an educational system that is repeatedly shortchanging our youth who, in turn, are hardly their level best to enhance our much cherished language.

    I'm awfully sorry but the demise of Grammar schools is extremely detrimental to the backbone of our once enviable grassroots-level teaching methods. I find a lot of the material I countenance in the Press nowadays a tad cringeworthy. Some of the upstart journalists would have been flunked back in my day and I am hardly over the hill. The correct in-depth teaching of Morphology, Syntax and other branches of grammar is essential, to say the least. You are entitled to disagree but by nullifying the core importance of grammar we end up creating a catastrophe (id est people who are semi-literate in their native language). I find that distressing. Do you not echo my sentiments?

    The government want to encourage our youngsters to master (never mind get to grips with the fundamentals of) more foreign languages. Is that not rather chimeric against the backdrop of their 'Old Shatterhand'-style policies of stupefying our beautiful great nation and her far from imbecilic population? How can people understand the mechanics of another language (id est THE GRAMMAR) when they haven't a 'Scooby Doo' (to use a form of colloquialism) about their very own? I shudder at the thought. Is it not merely a case of New Labour wanting to put on display a populace that is semi-literate in several lingoes and then pat themselves on the back for their earnest endeavours?

    Whether or not I lead an easy life (whatever the dickens that is?) is irrelevant. I resent such insinuations and I never stated that the apostrophe is the be-all and end-all to the English language but it certainly does not play an unimportant function.

    As for the Radio Four comment, I am ever so flattered. I could think of very few radio stations that match it for content, informative features, unbiased opinions, insightful debating programmes, refreshing politically incorrect and often self-deprecating humour, and the type of vivacity that seems to have evaporated from many of our circles. Thank you for making my day.

    I am perplexed by your allusion to my alleged objection to people identifying with English as their native language. That is so entangled with misinterpretation that it is almost comical. I am English and English is my native language and although I have been an avid reader and I have studied the subject in depth (both Literature and Grammar) I am still humanly susceptible to erring as are many other far more vivid personalities than my small-potatoes self. In spite of the existence of mistakes on my part (one of which you correctly identified in my previous 'missive') I still identify one gazillion per cent with our unrivalled in riches language. What I was deploring is the fact that I seem to communicate with so many Scandinavians for instance for whom English is a second, third and sometimes fourth language yet they have an exquisite command of the language which is an embarrassment for a lot of our fellow native speakers. The secret is that they teach them grammar properly from an almost foetal stage in both their mother tongue and any other languages that their curricula offer.

    Bernadette Tynan who is far more decorated and accomplished than I could ever hope to be has repeatedly exposed the myriad educational fatal flaws in our system - and it's not just English which is my field. The fact that we are ranked twenty-third in the world as far as education goes (behind places such as a few of the old Iron Curtain back-of-beyond outposts) should makes us all seethe with ire. Of course, what matters more to many is that we are number one in Europe when we are called upon to binge-drink and increase teenage pregnancy statistics. The state, of course, pampers those parasites instead of giving them incentives to read and broaden their horizons. Have you set foot in some of the comprehensive schools throughout the country. Please pay a visit to a few comprehensives in Hastings, Rugeley, Merthyr Tydfill, Cannock, Liverpool, Bolton and you'll be aghast!

    My 'apostrophe' example was merely a plain illustration of a malaise that is rooted in the very paradigm shift of today's societal norms. It might appear over the top to some and that is their privilege but I cannot remain silent on this issue. Why are we wasting youngsters' time by teaching them so much about say ANIMAL SCIENCE in the opening phases of their impressionable lives when we should be concentrating on the basics? I follow 'Are You Smarter Than A Ten-Year Old?' programme on Sky One with interest and having countenanced the idiocies of some of the questions I can more than feel for these children who become so put off with education that they'd rather indulge in magnifying their superficiality and narrow-mindedness. Thankfully, there are still many rich parents out there who can send their children to Gordonstoun, Harrow, Eton, and others of that ilk so our country does not completely slide into obscurity. That will be our saving grace in the long run.

    Then again, what do I know?

    Yours faithfully,
    Steven Ilchev
  4. Pinkcarys Local Tutor - Private Tutor

    I agree that apostrophes seem to be commonly misused.

    My husband wrote the anniversary card he gave me last week to "Cary's".

    I don't know who Cary is or why she owns my card, but I'm not very happy about it.


    ps. Note the lack of ' in my name! Grrr!
  5. danielden Guest

    Since I start to learn English so I can write without using grammar check this was and still is a problem for me. Thank you for your article. I will read it few more times for a better understanding since your English differ allot from what I see or hear everyday.
  6. Colleen Local Tutor - Private Tutor

    The biggest problem with apostrophe misuse is the fear and ignorance of many of the English teachers who are supposed to teach it. Fear in that they are not confident in their own abilities or secure in their own knowledge and ignorance because they themselves do not know how, why or when to use this inoffensive but important little mark.

    The reality is that the apostrophe is very easy to teach and learn if one is secure, informed and conformable with its use. I teach adults and children not only how to use the apostrophe but also why it is needed. It is alarming how many GCSE students are weak in this and many other areas of basic grammar.

    Such a little thing, so misunderstood. :rolleyes::rolleyes:
  7. MarkPorter Local Tutor - Private Tutor

    Well I wish you guys well in conserving the poor old apostrophe - I fear for its future, although I'm glad to see it is still with us 3 years after the original post ....
  8. Colleen Local Tutor - Private Tutor

    Long live the apostrophe.

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