01 November 2010

Its Precision, It's Complexity

I stopped in my tracks at the top of the subway stairs. There, pasted to the wall, was a huge billboard, all black type on a white background. I looked at it. I looked again. There in the middle was an errant apostrophe.

But it's not just any errant apostrophe: it was placed there after the billboard went up, carefully hand-drawn, in ink. Someone decided that "its" needed to be "it's" - even though "its" is right and "it's" is wrong. Please to note, also, that the artist didn't add an apostrophe to the "its" before precision.

So - instead of correcting an apostrophe abuse, the artist created one. Is it ironic and perverse? Or idiotic and unknowing?

There are mysteries everywhere.


Liz Miller said...


rachel... said...

Next time, take your White-out with you to the subway.

Life As I Know It said...

I vote for idiotic and unknowing.

it's/its their/they're

didn't we learn these in our 8th grade grammar books?

Julia said...

Proper apostrophe usage: to be added to my list of things I want my kids to know before they leave home.

Janet said...

I <3 mysteries :-)

The Library Lady said...

That is one of the things that drives me crazy on Good Reads, on blogs, etcetera.

And let's not forget about "who's" vs "whose".


kathy a. said...

rachel beat me to the white-out solution.

Gina said...

It would have taken everything I had not to run and get some white out to fix that.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I would totally do the white-out thing.

bipolarlawyercook said...

I actually carry white out in my bag. And a sharpie. And a tide pen. Because I have a RIDICULOUS bag. But I can correct crap like this and fix people's stains, too.

S said...

oh good grief.

this is EXACTLY the kind of thing i notice.

slow panic said...

and how/why did this person have time to stop and do this? or is that a good thing?

nonlineargirl said...

I'd go with the latter.

I got a document from someone wanting to be a vendor for my project. FIVE times he used an apostrophe to convey a plural. Employee's, Employer's...


This did nothing to endear me to this would-be-vendor. I wonder whether I should tell him, but I probably won't.

ATC said...

Argh! I just sit down with a nice chai to relax and go through my reading list, and this is the first thing I come across!

Now I'm cranky again. Sheesh.

Ah well, at least I'm in good company:)

Mike said...

"Please to note"? Really?

Sorry, but it seems to me that you should spend more time paying attention to your OWN grammar (or lack thereof).

Oh, and the way you photographed the sign, it is impossible to understand what was actually written.

Here are your comments: "[T]he artist didn't add an apostrophe to the 'its' before precision.

So - instead of correcting an apostrophe abuse, the artist created one."

With these words, you suggest that there should, indeed, have been an apostrophe in the "its" before "precision." I do not know, and cannot understand, why this is so because of the way you photographed the sign.

Half the words are not even visible, and I truly cannot figure out why there *should* be an apostrophe before "precision." It seems to me that the sign is describing the product's precision as well as its complexity. In that case, no apostrophe would be necessary, since the "its" indicates a possession, not a contraction.

Sorry to be rude, but you need to work on your own typing and photographing skills before you pick on those of others.

- Mike

allison said...

Dear Mike:

Maggie made a small irritation humorous by couching it in dignified and sophisticated rhetoric. It's a well-known literary device. You made your own issues comically large by leaving an overly long hectoring comment. It's a well-known asshat device. I'd say don't be sorry for being rude, be sorry for not having the guts to be available for rebuttal, as Maggie was. Disagreeing forcefully with someone on their blog is totally acceptable. Casting aspersions on someone anonymously is just sort of pathetic.

Deb said...

Allison, I bow to thee.

Maggie, if you hadn't shared it, I'd somehow feel incomplete.

That poster completes me.

Mike said...

Dear Allison:

Well. I did pick up on a "small" and "irritati[ng]" error that Maggie made in her comments.

But, unlike you, I had the courtesy to use sarcasm and not profanity. The former (sarcasm) is used by people in argument all the time; the latter (profanity) is used by those who have no arguments to make and so must resort to vulgarity - an extremely primitive and offensive manifestation of discontent.

As for my availability, well - here I am. For the record, I run my own blog cataloguing errors at http://abusersofenglish.blogspot.com. I use sarcasm on it all the time, but refrain from profanity.

You write: "Casting aspersions on someone anonymously is just sort of pathetic."

Uh, excuse me - but how am I "anonymous"? I shared my name, and I just gave you the URL address of my blog (which, by the way, I hope you will enjoy).

As for my "leaving an overly long hectoring comment," yes - I am known for my grandiloquence, but at least I have something to say, and can say it without abusing the rules of the English language.

No hard feelings, and no offense intended. It's nice to know that some people can take constructive criticism in stride, and others ... are like Allison.

Allison, who still did not answer my question about just what the sign says and should have said.

I am looking forward to YOUR explanation of the grammar, Allison.

Will said...

Dear Mike,

Clearly the gestalt of Magpie Musing is beyond your feeble-brained capacity for understanding. Best to shuffle off with your tail firmly planted between your legs. This is a pretty tough crowd, don't you know?

As for Allison's use of "asshat," if to you such milquetoast diction is "an extremely primitive and offensive manifestation" of a neurosis, then I guess the shining sun of profanity in Chaucer, Shakespeare or Swift will never brighten the winter of your discontent.

Why the Bawdy Bard coined original profane terms and phrases aplenty. Just the tip of the tit:

leak (piss)
do it (fuck)
make the beast with two backs
seamy side
blinking idiot
good riddance

So to remind you, here in America we spell the gerund of "catalog," "cataloging," without the effete "u." And though in your head you think you're known for grandiloquence, we all know that the odor in the room is that of your logorrhoea.

Good riddance you blinking idiot.

Mike said...

We are really going off point here.

While Will had the time to call me "a blinking idiot" and a "feeble-minded" imbecile, he still did not explain what the sign is actually supposed to say.

Why does Maggie suggest that there should have been an apostrophe in the "its" before "precision"?

Are you a politician, Will? Because only a politician could attack the intelligence of his opponent without answering the question at hand.

And a gerund is using a verb as a noun. I wrote that I run a blog cataloguing abuses of the English language. Yes, "cataloguing" ends in -ing, but this is not using it as a noun.

"Will is running for office..." - in this sentence, "running" is not a gerund. Are you serious?

Instead of casting aspersions on my character, try answering the questions that I asked. And enough of Shakespeare.

Remind me what office you are running for, Will, so that I know not to vote for the man who considers those who disagree with him to be "idiots." Apparently no one told him that you can disagree without being disagreeable.

What Will wrote is, indeed, irrelevant to my question. It is no more than simple-minded vulgarity that makes no attempt to clarify what the sign said. Stop attacking me and answer the question I asked!

And, Maggie, "[p]lease to note"? Shakespeare must be rolling over in his grave.

The English language is dead, and so is the courtesy typical of Shakespearian times. All we have left are rude comments like Allison's and Will's.

"I will not budge for no man's pleasure - I." No, I will not budge, but I will say to those who wish to post here: Please be nice.
And have a good day. I know I will, laughing at those who do not know how to laugh at themselves.

Magpie said...

Oh dear.

1) "Please to note" is a perfectly correct, if archaic, phrase in the English language. Look, Dickens uses it quite a lot: http://www.google.com/search?tbs=bks:1&tbo=1&q=%22please+to+note%22+dickens&btnG=Search+Books

2) I never said that there should have been an apostrophe in the "its" before "precision". I merely pointed out that the graffiti artist failed to add one. Who knows why?

3) You may call yourself Mike, but your first comment lacked both an email address and a website URL. That's tantamount to an anonymous comment. Thank you for subsequently providing a URL.

George said...

Seems like our knickers are too tight. As far as I can see, I'm surrounded constantly by strange English mistakes (including my own, no doubt), people who care about these, people who commit them by accident or out of ignorance, people who don't know or care about the difference, and dopey little kids who sidle past a bookstore saying, "Don't go in there — it's just books." To me, the real problem is the parents of the dopey little kids. If you want better English, start at home: And write.

Mike said...


Thanks for your reply.

You wrote that "INSTEAD OF CORRECTING AN APOSTROPHE ABUSE, the [graffiti] artist created one."

Well, what apostrophe abuse should have been corrected????

BTW, I hope that you enjoyed my blog. I should be adding more errors shortly.

@George: I agree with you.

Best regards,

Magpie said...

Please stop shouting. There was no error to be corrected.

Ellen said...

I don't know what all the shouting is about, but since Mike is having some reading comprehension difficulties:

1. "Please to note" is a tongue-in-cheek introduction commonly used to present a trivial matter with affected gravity, both in 19th century literature and in modern blog convention.

2. Maggie was referring to the fact that while people sometimes exert themselves to correct an example of apostrophe abuse, in this instance, the effort was not only unnecessary, but incorrect.

3. She was noting that the confused apostrophe enforcer felt called upon to fix one instance of what he/she mistakenly thought was a mistake, but left the instance right next to it untouched. This is humorously careless. Why waste time fussing with one example (even taking the time to match the font) in a show of editorial zeal, and ignore the adjacent mistake (which is not actually a mistake, but our anonymous artist seems to think it is)?

4. You don't need to read the whole sign to understand what Maggie was pointing out.

Is this horse dead yet, Dr. McCoy?

tudza said...

Well, I won't be calling anyone names or anything, but I also thought a complete image of the sign would be helpful.