Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Aspost* (for Apost*)

Do you believe there should be a different standard for writing that is literally carved in stone? I was outside on my break at the World War II memorial and noticed that on the marble bench where I sat were written the words: "DEDICATED TO THE WOMEN OF NEW YORK WHO GAVE THEIR SONS AND DAUGHTERS IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM." I decided to see what some of the other engravings had to say and hesitated briefly over one that began: "IN RECOGNITION OF THOSE WHO WENT IN HARMS WAY..." Clearly, that should have been HARM'S, though one has to wonder whether the apostrophe is going the way of the dodo. (For another example—and some might say another endangered species—see the unenlightened sign for "Mens Room" in the nearby cafeteria.) These possessive little guys don't really take up that much room, for Pete's sake, and this particular inscription was sort of prolix, anyway; it still had two long lines to go. But maybe stone cutters and bureaucrats think apostrophes look inelegant, somehow. Or that, despite their relatively tiny size, as characters go, it's simply too much work to punch out punctuation marks. I spent some time the other morning, while waiting for the bus, watching this buff young man cut down a very large tree (there were four of them, really, rising from the same giant trunk) and even with a chainsaw, it seemed to take him forever. Maybe that's the way it is with apostrophes in stone: an easy thing to get wrong, and a hard one to make right. There were seven hits on Aspost* in OhioLINK today, and 140 in WorldCat. (Of the former, one was a reference to the antibiotic Asposterol; some were misspellings of proper names and foreign renderings of words like apostolic; and one was just the inadvertent merging of as and postindustrial.) Note that the person who posted this image to Wikimedia Commons was astute enough to remember the apostrophe—though by deploying ALL CAPS LIKE THAT, the reader might be forgiven for imagining for a second that a man with the marvelously nomen est omen name of "Stone Carver" had left his own permanent calling card up there. (Note also the fairly common, but hard to locate, typo Capital for capitol.)

(STONE CARVER'S NAME ON NECKING OF CAPITAL, Philadelphia Exchange Company, 143 South Third Street, Philadelphia, PA, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wouldnt say the apostrophe is going the way of the dodo. Or rather, maybe its going the way of a dodo that has lost it's smartphone with the GPS app and is holding it's map upside down. It has completely lost it's way and is wandering around barging into place's where it doesnt belong, while in the old haunt's where it used to perform it's useful service's its no more to be seen. Such are the reality's of life in a country overrun with semi-literate writer's, it seem's.