Daily Archives: 6 May 2019

Simon Griffin’s Fucking Apostrophes

Simon Griffin, Fucking Apostrophes: A guide to show you where you can stick them (Icon Books 2016)

The inside blurb describes this as ‘the perfect gift for any pedant’, which may explain why a young friend gave it to me as a gift with a knowing look on his face.

I don’t know that I’d recommend it to pedants, but it’s a short, clear, and for my money accurate guide to the use of apostrophes in English. It doesn’t waste space by arguing that apostrophes are doomed to extinction, or telling anecdotes about guerrilla apostrophisers attacking grocers’ shops. It allows for cases where a number of possibilities are correct. In order to lighten the mood, that is, to avoid sounding like a primary school classroom, it inserts the word ‘fucking’ regularly. In fact the word ‘apostrophe’ hardly occurs in this book without that adjective attached.

It was a thoughtful gift. I learned the difference between possessive and attributive nouns – the latter are in effect adjectives and so don’t need a [fucking] apostrophe. So a farmer’s market is a market belonging to a farmer; a farmers’ market is one that belongs to more than one market; a farmers market is a market for farmers, not one that’s owned by them.

There’s a charming dedication at the end:

For Matilda and Maurice

Please remember that swearing’s

not big or clever.

The book isn’t big, but it is clever – and sweary.