Thursday, January 18, 2007

Apostrophe gut check in Hillsdale

The clever little book, "Eats Shoots & Leaves" (subtitle: "The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation") makes fun of punctuation foibles.

Careful and not-so-careful readers know I've have a few myself. So I'm entering dangerous terrain with the following....

Reading the book's chapter on apostrophes, "The Tractable Apostrophe," led me to do an apostrophe check of Hillsdale commercial signs.

After skimming our signs, I'd give the Town Center a B-plus.

As you can see in the photos, we have some exemplary punctuation practitioners.

The honor role includes Noah's, Salvador Molly's, the Hillsdale Farmers' Market and Papa John's Pizza. You have to look closely for the apostrophe in the Papa John's signage. It's as if the company punctuates grudgingly. Corporate consistency is a problem for Salvador Molly's. The listing for its catering service on its web site mysteriously drops the squiggly.)

Lowering Hillsdale's punctuation grade is Starbucks, a notorious flaunter of apostrophe misuse. Clearly we need an apostrophe to indicate possession here—Starbuck being the first mate of Captain Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, in "Moby Dick." The place is Starbuck's.

Also, pulling us down is Edward Jones Investments, although I suppose you could argue that the investments are the firm's clients', not Jones' (Note the tricky punctuation here! Whew!)

Queen of Diamonds Jewelry is another drag on our grade.

Lynne Truss, the author of "Eats Shoots & Leaves," presents a long list of offenders. The Edward Jones and Queen of Diamonds examples fall under her category "Signs that have given up trying." Examples: Customer toilet, author picture, mens room.

A more likely and forgiving explanation is that graphic design has won out over punctuation.

You be the judge.

The unforgiving can can always find kindred spirits at places like the Apostrophe Catastrophes or Apostrophe Abuse.

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Blogger drgogol said...

Not sure you've got the all right, Rick.

That FArmers' Market, for instance: Surely that's like Writers Guild or Players Association, which is to say that the individual members don't collective own it but are rather memebers of it.

And are we sure that Starbuck actually owns all those coffee shops? I wonder what the corporate history might say about that....

Anyhow, loving the blog!


Shawn Levy

8:34 AM  
Blogger Rick Seifert said...

Well, no one said any of this was easy, which is the point made by Lynne Truss in her book.

The Farmers may not own the market but that's the place we go to find them, as opposed to where we go to find plumbers, pediatricians and professors. They all "have" their (note the possessive form) places, which they may or may not own. So there is something more than mere ownership going on here....

10:45 AM  
Blogger ALT said...

What's worse? Having an incorrectly punctuated sign or copying the sign and punctuating it incorrectly?

Check out the sign behind the Wellness Center which welcomes the Hillsdale Farmer's Market.

8:49 PM  

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