Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Captain America, Save Us From Apostrophe Hell

Hey, movie buffs! A 1940's period film about Captain America starring Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson is being filmed in Manchester, England. But there is evil afoot. My Twitter friend @lobothecat showed me this photo with a tweet:
Another one for you @snarkygrammar >> major apostrophe-catastrophes on this Captain America film set: http://j.mp/cBhTWv

Good God. Don't the filmmakers realize that children are going to see this? 

Where does the set designer go wrong? The signs on this store use apostrophes in all the wrong ways to form plurals and possessives.

Quick rules:
  • To turn a singular word into a plural word, just add 's' or 'es' with no apostrophe. I like dogs. He eats turkey sandwiches.
  • To make a possessive adjective from a plural word ending in 's,' add only an apostrophe. She couldn't enter the boys' club. The line outside the ladies' room was very long.
  • To make a possessive adjective from a plural word not ending in 's,' add an apostrophe + s. She couldn't enter the men's club. The zoo had a special children's section.

  • Men's & Boys' Pants
  • Cohen's Outfitters
  • Boys' Knickers


  1. Perhaps it was intentional due to this kind of problem happening often.

  2. I have no doubt that the filmmakers are doing it intentionally. I'm being facetious, and using the example as a teaching tool nevertheless ;-)

  3. This reminds me of my high school attempting to freshen up its look by replacing all the door signs with fancy brass ones. My English teacher made sure to point out to the principal that they put "Boy's" and "Girl's" on the restrooms.

  4. This is correct grammar.

    Apostrophes were used to contract words. 'Knickers' is a contraction of 'Knickerbocker'. Since the contraction was new in the 1940s, the apostrophe was present. Since 'Knickerbocker' is now antiquated, we do not use it.

  5. And now, 'Knickers' is only used for women's underwear. Which is further proof that the usage here, along with its grammar, is antiquated.

  6. Jon, nobody is arguing that the grammar on the set is meant to reflect the grammar of the 1940's, only that it's not correct by today's standards. Good point about the origins of 'knickers.' I don't believe it was ever correct to write "pant's" with an apostrophe. ;-)

  7. Then it is a pointless argument because the film is set in the 1940s so the grammar on the signage is correct for that period. So why the discussion? It's explanation lies in the period of the story.

    It is a very elementary rule in grammar that apostrophes can be used to contract words. "'cause' for example.

  8. Ironically I slipped an apostrophe in "it's" there, for some reason

  9. Hey again, Jon. There are other errors in the signs. The plural was never "boy's pant's" -- not in the 1940s or at any time. Zheesh.

    And we do understand the elementary rule of contractions. We talk about them all the time here. :-)