This past weekend was World Water Day -- celebrating and…
Apostrophes: I’ve been collecting them from local markets and produce sections.
A versatile and popular piece of punctuation, if there is such a thing, the apostrophe indicates omission or elision (“didn’t” is “did not”), possession, and sometimes — just sometimes — plural forms, such as with abbreviations.
The apostrophe came into use in the 16th century; in fact, Shakespeare — no slouch when it came to the English language — used them rarely when indicating possession.
Since then, there has been widespread inconsistency and uncertainty in the apostrophe’s use which I find at once interesting and charming. It’s often apparent when vegetable or fruit purveyors are not sure whether what they are dealing with is either a plural or a possessive case on their signage (but as well in many, many different places). So, what should be a plural “cantaloupes” becomes instead, and incorrectly, possessive: “Cantaloupe’s — $2.99.”
None other than the linguistic experts at Oxford University refer to this phenomenon as “the greengrocer’s apostrophe.”
But I would make the case that it should be “greengrocers’ apostrophe,” as a plural possessive, because I see so many delicious examples.