To really understand me, you may have to realize that my husband and I talk grammar in our spare time.
Not that it’s always the topic of choice (maybe because it tends to become argumentative), but neither does it come up infrequently.
Our most recent conversation stemmed from seeing Australia in theaters because we had a free movie ticket that expired before next weekend, when the movies that we really want to see came out.
Conversation after that movie went several different directions: filming style, dialogue, sensationalism, etc. (“Watching a movie,” for us, is not just an activity that ends when the credit rolls.)
One of which came from my husband’s observation. He is usually the one to notice (and correct) grammatical errors. Although, I believe it falls into the category of “pet peeves” for both of us; namely the use of “your” when “you’re” is intended and “it’s” when “its” is intended (and I sadly admit that Sam has had to correct me on the latter more than once…)
It’s one thing to make a mistake, but it’s another to not realize that a mistake was ever made, or to not care one way or another. OR, to publish something with a blatant mistake.
Now, we understand that it’s a losing battle to try and correct that on online communities (although that doesn’t always keep us from fighting.) Even in the classroom, it’s a tough and constant battle. But when you see it in magazines and newspaper headlines… it really makes us wonder.
Anyway, this observation Sam made, it shows one of the reasons I love him so. In the movie they show a newspaper. Like normal people, I read the headline, got the gist of it, and figured out the message it was conveying. Sam did all the above, as well as recognize a blatant grammatical error in the headline of the newspaper shown in the movie. Who does that? Who notices that? But then, seriously, who would make that mistake? Or rather, who would let that mistake slip by?
Now, since I didn’t notice the mistake myself I can’t pinpoint where it was. But apparently, in one of the headlines they use “it’s” when they should’ve used “its” (or maybe vice versa? Now I can’t even remember..)
So this started a discussion of the nature of language. My first argument (since I’ve been know to make this mistake and have tried to rationalize where it comes from) is that “its” is an exception to a rule. We are taught to use an apostrophe to show possession. In the case of “its” since “it’s” can also, and more appropriately, represent the conjuction of “it” and “is”, “it’s” became the representation of the conjuction and “it” showing possession was simplified to “its”.
Sam, so smartly, countered that that didn’t necessarily apply as pronouns in general don’t use apostrophes to show possession. E.g. “hers”. So if we were really looking at rules, that rule wouldn’t apply to begin with, in order for “its” to be an exception to the rule.
This rabbit-trailed into a conversation about the correct way to identify possession of proper names that are either plural, end in “S”, or both. Basically, whether or not a word ending in “s” and showing possession should have simply an apostrophe at the end, or an apostrophe followed by the typical “s”.
That discussion never met a solid conclusion as the rules for that are abundantly varied. Although my favorite rule, and personal conclusion, has to do with the sound of language as opposed to the use and/or type of language (rules such as “if it’s plural than you add the “s” after the apostrophe” OR “if the name is biblical, it should always have an apostrophe “s”” other than that never use the extra “s”.)
The much more logical and natural way to do it, is if the show of possesion would add an additional syllable, then an apostrophe AND the additional “s” should be added. For example: “Chris’s dog.”
If the show of possession would NOT add an additional syllable, the “s” should be left off and the word should end with an apostrophe. Example: The Moores’ house. I think that covers most situations.
But back on track with “its” and “you’re”. More commonly than “it’s”, “your” is the mistake that slips by general readers copy-editors alike. This can’t even be rationalized with a “rule” that people may think they are following. “You’re” is just going extinct. In that case, why even bother with an apostrophe? Why add an extra letter? It sounds the same – is there really any difference?
“Your…what?” is the common response Sam and I give to statements like “your funnee!1!” In that case.. “your funny… what?”
When we see that in online and texting messages, again, it’s almost not worth the effort to correct. When we see it and mark it wrong on student papers… we have to fight despondancy and the fear that students won’t even realize what or why we marked it wrong. When we see it in newspapers… we weep.
Is this the decline of language along with the decline of civiliation, that no amount of fight will prevail?
Is it not even a decline, just a natural change in language that we shouldn’t even bother shrugging over, because it’s going to happen anyway and it’s not “bad” or even “good”?
Is correcting these mistakes something we should continue to strive for, either way?
Sam and I both have a desire for excellence. We both want to pursue the drive for excellence. But at the same time, we want to be worthwhile.
It’s one thing to maintain a standard yourself. It’s another thing to teach and uphold others to it, especially when they are changing in spite of you (or to spite you..heh.)
On a completely different note. When Sam and I walked into the theater we quickly noticed that we were by far the youngest couple in there. Everyone else looked atleast 30+, and as far as we could tell, part of a couple. It’s nice to know though that even old people go on movie dates.