Saturday, August 1, 2009

Used Golf Ball's Lament

It was all I could do to resist intervening on a hand-written sign I encountered yesterday:

Used Golf Ball's
That the sign was written in dry erase marker increased the temptation to remove the errant apostrophe tenfold, perhaps elevenfold.

Don't take my word for it, take Bryan Garner's word for it, who observes that in addition to indicating the possessive case -- e.g., Bryan Garner's -- and signifying a contraction -- e.g., don't for do not -- the apostrophe has a limited third use in English:
[I]t is sometimes used to mark the plural of an acronym, number, or letter.
Please note the AOL keyword sometimes and the significant qualifer it bears. Golf ball is not an acronym, number, or letter, so its correct pluralization is golf balls.

I might have purchased one or two used golf balls, although probably not since I have no interest in them. I have no use for used golf ball's at any price.


ab said...

That is annoying. I find it annoying in speech as well. People who say things like, “Meet me at Boston Pizza’s.” It comes out sounding plural, but I’m pretty sure they mean “Pizza’s”, either way it’s irritating.

Dale said...

AB, ah yes, *that* annoyance. It's enough to convert a person to Cormac Mccarthy's view of punctuation -- the less the better.