To Possess or Not to Possess, That is the Grammatical (and Poltergeistical) Question

I'm compelled by uncontrollable inner forces to post this comment, even though I'm already 30 minutes late for work and I should really be running to catch the subway....

A website, "A New York Escorts Confessions," was recommended to me today, but I probably wouldn't have looked at the site otherwise, since (a) The subject of the blog's title implies that the whole endeavor might actually be nothing more than a come-on for a porn site and (b) The lack of a possessive apostrophe in the word "Escorts" implies that every entry on the weblog will be written in an equally haphazard manner. The site's talented writer, however, knows that the mistake exists and revels in the controversy. (It should be: "A New York Escort’s Confessions"; if multiple escorts were confessing, it would be "Some New York Escorts’ Confessions.")

This might seem like a small deal, but it's not. Oh, there are those who will say that this only matters to curmudgeonly, nerdy copy editors, sensitive-hipster English major types, and grammar Nazis. And there are those who claim they're "grammar rebels" defiantly breaking English conventions. But the issue must be discussed, parsed out, and corrected once and for all, before I have to hurt someone.

I’m siding with the pro-apostrophe crowd here, of course.

There are times when grammar and spelling can be rebelled against successfully, and there are times when a mistake is just a mistake. It's like the difference between doing a little coke on the weekend and doing full-on crack every day. Leaving out the apostrophe in a possessive phrase is complete crack rock. And leaving out the apostrophe in the title of your blog is crack every day for breakfast. It's terribly unhealthy. To all those apostrophe malefactors out there: Please correct, before America declines even farther into decay. (There are exceptions to the general possessive apostrophe rule, especially regarding possessive pronouns and "its" vs. "it's," but once you learn the basics it's really very simple.)

Also, it's a dirty rotten shame when a really nicely written blog like "A New York Escorts Confessions," which is often light and funny and unique (maybe it’s fiction, maybe it’s fact -- it works well either way), trips itself up with grossly amateur errors. One expects grammar, spelling, and minor factual mistakes to slip into non-mainstream online publications since we don't have proofers working for us, and some bloggers may very well be riding the new vanguard of the idiom, pushing the boundaries....

But when a mistake is obvious -- and it’s not a purposeful and needed twisting of the form, spelling invention, or choice (e.g., writing in all lowercase is a choice that can work without corrupting the logic of the written/spoken word) -- it should really be fixed, out of self-respect, respect for the language, and respect for the reader.

The improper use of possessives in the Americanized version of the English language only even seems acceptable ("looks right" being the key phrase) in the first place because of hack advertising men and soulless publicists -- grammatical crackheads each and every one -- being too lazy to use apostrophes correctly in their campaigns. When they use apostrophes to make a word plural and drop the apostrophe to make it possessive ... ewwww. I hate to admit it. But. Publicists. Need. Pain. And corporate ad men are devils, washing the minds of the masses for the Man.

Poltergeists, on the other hand, must consider a completely different set of criteria before deciding whether or not to possess a word, phrase, house, human, or animal....

[Moral of the story: Be aggressive with your possessive; and hacks & flaks are whack, Mack. Now just for fun, go gaze upon some bad celebrity mistakes at the totally free and fabulous archives. Or rent a copy of the exquisite PR nightmare tale "Sweet Smell of Success." Or find out whether or not the writer of "Escorts Confessions" slept with a Labrador Retriever. Yeah, you heard that right. Go! Go! And if you don't believe she's really a girl, then test her writing on the mind-boggling Gender Genie male/female text tester]


Recommended grammar reading: "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation," "Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them," and "Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English."

All three of books are not only informative, they're also easy to understand and quite funny. In fact, they should have been used in your high school English classes instead of those awful texts that made grammar look like calculus (even if they don't replace the all-encompassing style knowledge of the old standbys, like the Chicago and AP guides). However, always keep in mind that most grammatical rules are at least a little bit subjective, so be prepared for inconsistencies between various style guides. In then end, you have to make the final decisions on your own.

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