Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998 17:15:55 -0700
From: "A. Vine"
Subject: Re: plural's - a new development? (short reply to LONG repost)

Larry Horn wrote:

>In an
> example from Melanie Misanchuk (which bears striking resemblance to
> something I saw in a London pub quite recently):
> I once saw, on
> a handwritten sign in a washroom, "Plea's flush the toilet".
> Now *that's* serious.
> _plea's flush the toilet_! I maintain that some thought had to go into that
> particular effort. It surely would have been much simpler to write
> _please..._ wouldn't it? What rule was the author following when s/he wrote
> that? Can it be put down to lack of education, confusion about the uses of
> _'s_, or is the reason more profound than that? Perhaps the author was
> attempting to produce *correct* English by using what s/he perceived as
> *high-brow* literary orthography, and over-correcting in the process of
> doing that? I still don't have answers to that central question - the
> reason, as usual, probably depends on the individual.

This looks remarkably like the makings of a folk etymology. If the writer of
this sign has not seen the word written much (or doesn't remember exactly), s/he
might think, 'Well, it's like a plea, only I know there's an "s" sound at the
end, so it's probably a plural. OK, here's how I would write a plural of
"plea".' Pretty nifty.

> Finally, Tom Chase sounds the death knell for _'s_:
> "The apostrophe was introduced into English orthography rather late,
> and seems to be dying out. The number of writers who can use it
> confidently and correctly is declining; through the media of
> advertising, signage, and so on we are constantly exposed to
> "incorrect" uses (e.g., "Simpsons" rather than "Simpson's" in a
> department store chain founded by Robert Simpson).

This is sometimes due to the difficulty of securing a name legally. For
example, the catalog merchant, Lands' End, had to spell the name as such in
order to reserve it for legal use. I have worked for a company which had to
misspell one of the words in the name just wind up with the initials desired.

> English is not alone in admitting of variants in the usage of
> _'s_. French and German also suffer. There is a likelihood that
> factors such as education, over-correction due to concern about
> *correct* usage, history, *foreign-ness* of words and the fact that
> certain words _don't look right_ without the _'s_ all play a
> part. Personally, this process of change pretty much sums up for me
> why I love languages so much - wouldn't the world be a much duller
> place without the humble _'s_?
> Jonathan Swift Sales Executive Abbey Information Systems 1 Paper Mews
> 330 High Street Dorking RH4 2TU

I would also suggest that the Internet may be responsible for the proliferation
of a number of annoying misspellings/miswritings. English is the most common
language currently used, and many of the writers are not native and have not had
the umpty-ump number of spelling lessons many natives had to slog through. In
addition, based on the observations of some friends and family members who are
otherwise excellent spellers, some folks are not very good at typing and so spew
forth a veritable plethora of typos in the course of point-making.

I cannot be alone amongst this crowd in having a list of pet peeve
misspellings/misuses I encounter with the greatest of frequency?