Tag Archives | Lapsus Linguae

Apostrophe Fail

Part 1: One of my pet peeves is when people substitute an opening quotation mark for an apostrophe – for example, when they write the abbreviation for 1973 as ‘73 instead of ’73.

This is a phenomenon of the computer age; I don’t recall seeing it when I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, but I see it all the time now. The reason is that it’s a product of auto-correct; in most word-processing programs, if you try to type an apostrophe at the beginning of a word, auto-correct will assume you intended to type an opening quotation mark, and so will change it to an opening quotation mark, and you have to make a conscious effort to change it back.

But as a result, people’s brains have been warped to the point that nowadays, even when auto-correct isn’t involved (for example, when they’re hand-painting a sign), they still substitute an opening quotation mark for an apostrophe.

Goddamn reversed apostrophe

Goddamn reversed apostrophe

I think the most embarrassing (because most expensive and high-profile) example of the mistake that I’ve seen is in the 1973 posters of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs flashed up at the 0:26 and 0:42 marks this new movie trailer. It’s particularly ironic because it’s a mistake that wouldn’t have been made in 1973.

Part 2:

Well, that example didn’t wear the “most embarrassing (because most expensive and high-profile) example” crown for long. Right after I wrote the above, I came across a much worse example in the following trailer (at the 2:15 mark), which features a gigantic apostrophe fail in the very title of the goddamn movie:

Embarrassing trailer

Embarrassing trailer

Thankfully, this empire of incompetence does not extend everywhere. This poster for the movie was evidently made by people who grasp the difference between apostrophes and quotation marks:

Non-embarrassing poster

Unfortunately, there’s another poster ….

Embarrassing poster

Embarrassing poster


Overheard at the Grocery Store

Conversation at the checkout counter, as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” plays on the store’s sound system:

CHECKER: Why aren’t they playing Christmas music?

BAGGER: This is from “The Nutcracker.”

CHECKER: Is that a scary movie?

BAGGER: No!!

CHECKER: Oh, it’s a Christmas movie?

BAGGER: Yes! I think it starred Barbie.

This is like one of those stories where the person rescuing you from the vampire, turns out also to be a vampire.


R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

R.I.P. Leonard Cohen

I don’t think anyone’s music has been more important to me over the past two decades than Cohen’s.

Farewell, maestro.


The Constipation of No Authority

Inadvertent humour department: just heard someone on CNN, discussing potential running-mates, saying that Trump “needs to be comfortable with his Number Two.”


Missing the Train to Elea

Popular culture gets Zeno’s paradox wrong again:

dilbert-zeno

There’s a widespread impression that Zeno’s proposed problem is that after you reach the halfway point to your destination, you then have to go halfway to the remaining distance, and so on ad infinitum, so that you get closer and closer to your goal but never reach it.

But that’s not how the paradox goes. The problem is much worse. The paradox is that before you can get halfway to your destination, you have to get halfway to the halfway point, and so on ad infinitum, so that you can never even start moving. (Here’s Rose Wilder lane making the same mistake.)

Probably the mistake arose from someone conflating this paradox with another of Zeno’s paradox, the Achilles, in which the fastest runner gets closer and closer to catching up to the slowest runner.


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