Evocacion wrote: ↑
Sat Sep 23, 2017 2:14 pm
Rasputin wrote: ↑
Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:29 pm
60moo wrote: ↑
Fri Sep 22, 2017 5:32 pm
I reserve my greatest contempt for an otherwise extraordinarily capable ex-employee, who strangely insisted that possessive case apostrophes are an anachronism, there simply being no grammatical need.
You realise that plenty of serious linguists have argued that the possessive apostrophe serves no purpose? A 19th century writer - possibly George Bernard Shaw - dropped them on basically the same grounds.
GBS had number of odd beliefs and habits - see the article on Wikipedia for details. He called vaccination "a peculiarly filthy piece of witchcraft". He claimed that he despised Shakespeare. He admired both Stalin and Hitler. As for his views on English, this is a quote from the Wikipedia article:
"In one area at least Shaw was constant: in his lifelong refusal to follow normal English forms of spelling and punctuation. He favoured archaic spellings such as "shew" for "show"; he dropped the "u" in words like "honour" and "favour"; and wherever possible he rejected the apostrophe in contractions such as "won't" or "that's". In his will, Shaw ordered that, after some specified legacies, his remaining assets were to form a trust to pay for fundamental reform of the English alphabet into a phonetic version of forty letters."
I, for one, am very glad that didn't happen!
Yes, me too. I should have left it at 'serious linguists' (by which I didn't mean GBS - he was just a bonus). If we are trusting Wikipedia, it also says:
Over the years, the use of apostrophes has been criticised. George Bernard Shaw called them "uncouth bacilli". In his book American Speech, linguist Steven Byington stated of the apostrophe that "the language would be none the worse for its abolition." Adrian Room in his English Journal article "Axing the Apostrophe" argued that apostrophes are unnecessary and context will resolve any ambiguity. In a letter to the English Journal, Peter Brodie stated that apostrophes are "largely decorative...[and] rarely clarify meaning". Dr. John C. Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London, says the apostrophe is "a waste of time".
60moo wrote: ↑
Sat Sep 23, 2017 3:38 pm
What makes my illustrious* employee's position even more absurd, is that her first name was 'Chris' - and it shouldn't take too much imagination to see where her argument was heading! Consider something that Chris had owned - her bicycle, for example. Is it correctly spelt:
(i) Chris' bike
(ii) Chris's bike
(iii) Chris bike; or
(iv) Chriss bike?
Although some would argue (i), I would say (ii) is the correct form. But (iii) or (iv)? Ridiculous, because the bike - going by her logic - could equally belong to persons going by the names of Chri or Chriss.
I wouldn't call it ridiculous.
The apparent problem knowing the spelling of the name is just down to the fact that you have left the details of the system you are attacking vague. I think you have to tell us the details before you can say that it wouldn't work. Assuming that, along with the apostrophes themselves, it would jettison the inconsistently-followed rule that where you are adding a possessive apostrophe to a word which already ends in an s, you don't add another s, the answer would be (iv), and it would be perfectly clear to anyone using it that the spelling of the person's name was Chris.
I am not saying that we should get rid of apostrophes, BTW, just that the argument is not deserving of the contempt you heaped on it - I think playfully - in your first post, and that it's not at all surprising that your star employee should have bought into it.
We have no apostrophes in spoken language and we are still able to figure out whose bike is whose. I can see that the potential ambiguities may be slightly different in written language but I think genuine difficulties would be few and far between.