Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Grammar Absurdities: KISS

The idiocy behind the usage of ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ is probably the best examples of how jacked up our language is.

Because ‘it is’ in contraction form has to be written as ‘it’s’, the evil twin that shows possession, ‘its’, cannot use the apostrophe—even though every other word that shows ownership sports the shallow apostrophe up there. And you know why don’t you? Because we painted ourselves into a corner.

Yep. All the brilliant academics tweaking away at our language, trying to integrate colloquialisms, had to go and stick an apostrophe in our lingo and mess it all up. They should have kept it simple. KISS. Not the rock group. Although I did use to Rock and Roll All Night. KISS stands for: Keep It Simple, Stupid. And we failed to do so with our language.

Here’s another mess caused by the apostrophe:

That is Cyrus’s house. (Or is it Cyrus’ house?)

Both possessives look like crap.

Check out how it’s done in Spanish. Es la casa de Cyrus. Clear as a chime and simple. De shows possession.

About the only semi sophisticated usage that makes sense to me is the semicolon. When kicking off this series, I kind of attacked the semicolon by asking what it was for. But here’s an excellent example of its usage taken from The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference:

I saw Meagan only three times after her divorce; once was at a dance recital in Berkeley.

I mean…that’s an awesome example. But then they cram a stinker in there like this:

A month or so later, they were back together; in fact, they plan to marry in October.

Really? Why complicate that one? Just break it into two sentences and be done with it. But NOOOOOO. Someone just had to muddy the waters.

As for the first exemplary illustration, the problem is that a dash would work just as well.

So my conclusion is this: try as hard as you may in order to become that elegant concert pianist of English. But no matter how hard you strive, your melody will always have some grit in it. And that’s what makes the art of writing beautiful.

The ever opinionated E.C. Stacy


Margaret Yang said...

Actually, it kind of makes sense that "it's" is short for "it is," while "its" means "belonging to it."

If you think about the words "his" and "hers," they don't have apostrophes, so why should its?

Chiseled in Rock said...

I love your examples, Margaret! Yeah, two words that didn't play well with the others--no need to complicate them with apostrophes. More proof of our silliness! :)


Patricia Stoltey said...

The one that drives me nuts is the possessive for an "S" word...Cyrus's seems so logical but looks and sounds silly.

Marilynn Byerly said...

The semicolon is perfectly fine in nonfiction because it works in formal writing, but it's problematic in fiction which is anything but formal writing.

The only time I use it in fiction is from a highly educated character viewpoint or when a character is speaking formally.