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September 3, 2004 12:14 AM

Broken: Misused apostrophes

MalApostropheWalter Erskine writes:

Found in a parking lot in Anchorage, Alaska, this sign is a fine demonstration of the rampant mis-use of apostrophes in our state, if not yours also. You'd think signmakers would attempt to understand the basic rules (or should it be "rule's") of our language. Why can't signs be proofread by literate people?

(Also see Eats Shoots & Leaves, the recent book by Lynne Truss. -mh)

Update: On the comment board, codeman38 points us to this classic: Bob's Quick Guide to the Apostrophe, You Idiots.


This is even crazier... this is at Easton Ave Apartments, New Brunswick, NJ:

Posted by: Daniel Drucker at September 3, 2004 12:34 AM

I guess they just didn't put much thought into the sign.....

Posted by: Me at September 3, 2004 12:50 AM

At the risk of sounding terribly pedantic, I don't think there's an apostrophe in "misuse."

C'mon, you were BEGGING for that one! ;)

Posted by: brian w at September 3, 2004 02:18 AM

Of course there is no apostophy in "misuse". However, there could be a hyphen.

The interesting thing is that the apostrophy that shouldn't have been placed in "vehicles" probably should have been put in "owner's" instead.

The NJ sign is awesome. Talk about not knowing which word to emphasize.

Posted by: You at September 3, 2004 04:27 AM

This type of error actually has its own name -- it's referred to as a "grocer's apostrophe" because of its common appearance in signs advertising "banana's", "apple's", and the like. Seems to be more common with fruits and vegetables; I don't think I've ever seen a sign for "egg's" or "steak's".

Posted by: Jim at September 3, 2004 10:26 AM

Daniel: At least they didn't use "superfluous" "quotation" "marks" along with all that underlining...

Posted by: codeman38 at September 3, 2004 11:56 AM

Oh, and I just can't leave without posting this link: "Bob's Quick Guide To The Apostrophe, You Idiots". Enjoy. :-)

Posted by: codeman38 at September 3, 2004 11:58 AM

*smacks his forehead*

Posted by: brian w at September 3, 2004 02:15 PM

codeman38, that's a big pet peeve of mine. I hate when I see a sign:

Bob's window cleaning


"Since 1973!"

Why is that in quotes? Maybe it's meant to be sarcastic. Since 1973? "Sure".

Posted by: T. Bradley Dean at September 3, 2004 08:19 PM

My girlfriend and I are constantly noticing those... we call them sarcastic quotes, actually...

Seen recently:

Our vegetables are "fresh"!

You can "trust" in us.

All "returns" in 30 days.

When you think of "us", think QUALITY INSANTLY! [sic!]

Posted by: Daniel Drucker at September 4, 2004 08:24 AM

LOL, mh, since Truss'(s) book title is "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"! [Could the missing comma be an apostrophe that didn't know its place?]

Thanks for one of the best sites on the web!

Posted by: GJ at September 4, 2004 09:42 AM

...Seabrook Crisps (potato chips), a UK company. On their packets, you will find the following:

"More" than a "Snack"

Mind you, what else can you expect from a company that advertises their crisps as being 'Factory Fresh'?

Posted by: John at September 5, 2004 12:00 PM

That's kinda like:

Period Use: See chapter 4

Comma Use: See chapters 6-128

Posted by: vista904 at September 5, 2004 03:30 PM

The subtitle to "Eats Shoots and Leaves" is "A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation."

Shouldn't "Zero Tolerance" really have a hyphen?

Posted by: Vidiot at September 6, 2004 01:28 AM

If you live near a Fry's Electronics, check the fine print on a returned merchandise sticker. All over the store they've got these things with superfluous apostrophes. (unless it's just the Sunnyvale one...)

And BQGttA is not 100% correct/complete. You can use apostrophes for some rare plurals, such as "mind your p's and q's." If they meant the literal word "VEHICLE", then an apostrophe there would be ok.

Posted by: josh at September 6, 2004 05:23 AM

Its not so "scary", that the person who wrote the sign, is "illiterate"; its that the "people", who made the sign, also are "clue-less". You'd think theyd have SOME experience in common typo's. Garbage in=garbage out. (Yeah, for the dense, I know my sentence is total garbage!) It's sad that someone paid to have a professional make that sign. I assume it was a "pro", anyway. Could've been Uncle Merv on a drunk night for all I know.

Posted by: duh at September 6, 2004 07:30 PM

Sarcastic quotes:

They're bad enough on product labels, but I once had a salesman in my home trying to sell me some sort of life insurance. The brochure was absolutely rife with phrases in quotes: "Piece of mind", "lowest rate", "the rat race" - anything that they thought they could emphasize. They didn't realize that what they were really doing was drawing attention to the fact that their sales pitch was just a mishmash of tired cliches - and ones that they couldn't back with plain facts anyway.

And, in the same vein as Easton's awkward sign:

I think all *T-SHIRTS* with __sayings__ on them should be **FEDERALLY-REGULATED** by "text-decoration approvers"!

Posted by: DaveC426913 at September 7, 2004 02:41 PM

DaveC: If they really wrote "piece of mind", that's a double whammy...

Posted by: codeman38 at September 7, 2004 07:09 PM


Since “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” was mentioned at the top of this thread, you may want to read this review in the New Yorker. See

It’s a grammar book full of grammar mistakes. The book is broken.

Best always,


Posted by: Robert Moss at September 9, 2004 01:46 PM

I'm not a native speaker of the English language, but I think it's funny that in "Bob's Quick Guide to the Apostrophe, You Idiots", the apostrophe used is actually a grave accent (thus, it's a typo in a REALLY inappropriate place). If you're gonna do it, do it right! ;)

Quote from Wikipedia:

"The grave accent is used in English only in poetry and song lyrics. It indicates that a vowel usually silent is to be pronounced, in order to fit the rhythm or meter. Most often, it is applied to a word ending with -ed. For instance, the word looked is usually pronounced as a single syllable, with the e silent; when written as lookèd, the e is pronounced -- look-ed."

Who's pedantic now!? ;)

Cheers, Lucien

Posted by: Lucien Coy at September 9, 2004 02:19 PM

Aside from the wandering apostrophe, does the Spenard Center really have only one customer?

Posted by: David at September 11, 2004 05:35 PM

Lexington, Kentucky, is home to a store with a HUGE neon sign reading "Ladie's Clothes" .... Horrible!

Posted by: Walker at October 3, 2004 10:10 AM

wow...I have never realised how many ignorant, anal people there are in the world - these people who obviously have nothing better to do than whinge about apostrophes and gramatical errors on signs. PLEASE! Look around you, open your eyes a little...I hope one day you will realise that none of this actually matters. Get over it

Posted by: ohmygod at November 18, 2004 03:43 PM

The misuse of the apostrophe is common in most of the occidental languages, it seems. Although the German rule is about the same, I have actually had some German kids tell me that the apostrophe is "mostly meaningless", because it is just there to draw attention to the word!!!

"All other vehicles will be towed at the owners' expenses" (doesn't sound very good, though) or "Every other vehicle will be towed at the owner's expense" would be correct.

Maybe the writer was trying to say that the other vehicles' wills should be be towed, just you or I might say, "may God's will be done" :P

Obviously, the building managment company is doing a losing money (or should I say loosing money? lol), since there is only one customer at Spenard center, although there are several tenants.

Posted by: Debra at June 26, 2005 02:05 AM

actualy the sighn creators probobly used "Jake's spelling and grammer" he was a kid I knew in elementary,he is always trying to correct spelling and make himself look good

Posted by: tom at March 7, 2006 10:19 PM

i took this pic yesterday:

nice. :)

Posted by: dj empirical at May 30, 2006 06:10 PM

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