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Be Wiser Insurance, and other apostrophe crimes

PoundsApostrophe[8 April 2013] Any off-duty linguist enthroned on the thunderbox at Exeter services on the M5 might imagine there’d be nothing to disturb his privy moments except perhaps a bit of misspelt graffiti on the wall. But he’d be wrong, for the errant tadpole (aka the misplaced apostrophe) lurks everywhere, this time glaring down at him from the bog-door advertisement shown here, courtesy of Be Wiser Insurance. Is nowhere safe from such dunderheads?

Ah well, it’s hard to get it right all the time, I suppose. Even the punctilious Daily Mail is guilty of apostrophe crime, telling us in a recent news item that Kate (aka the Princess of Wales) is six months’ pregnant but, in the headline to the story, six months pregnant. It’s as if the paper were running a spot-the-difference quiz. Yes, the difference is the addition of that little mark, no bigger than an embryo. And so, a million voices cry, which version is correct? Very simple: if Kate were three hours late for a meeting, would hours get an apostrophe? Obviously not. Like being late, being pregnant is just a state (in this case, a very important matter of state, but a state nonetheless), and there’s no possession involved. There’s no contraction either that might warrant an apostrophe here, at least not yet.

ParlingEyeApostropheOne apostrophe often omitted through ignorance or because it looks a bit weird is the one that should appear in 2 Hours Free Parking (after the s in ‘hours’, since you ask). This is because there’s a sort of possession in that the free parking belongs to the hours. Using the analogy of one hour’s free parking or one day’s pay, it’s clear that 2 Hours’ Free Parking would be correct in traditional grammar.  [cont]

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