This post isn’t about who owns that crummy bar downtown. It’s about using apostrophes when more than one person owns something (although, we could be talking about that crummy bar). Look at the following sentences:
1. John and Bill’s crummy bar downtown is doing well, despite its location.
Why does only Bill get an apostrophe showing ownership? When two or more people own the same thing, only the last person mentioned gets an apostrophe. That’s the rule.
2. John’s and Bill’s wives are very good friends.
Presumably, John and Bill each has his own wife; they don’t share connubial bliss. Therefore, each man gets his own apostrophe (along with his own wife).
Yogi Berra, New York Yankee catcher with a 19-year career, was (almost) as famous for his turns of phrase as was for his catching. Here are some of his most famous, listed in today’s Los Angeles Times:
• The future ain’t what it used to be.
• When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
• You can observe a lot by watching.
• Never answer an anonymous letter.
• We made too many wrong mistakes.
• It’s deja vu all over again.
• Baseball is 90% physical. The other half is mental.
And when Yogi’s home town, St. Louis, staged a “Yogi Berra Day” in 1949, Berra announced to the crowd, “I want to thank everybody for making this day necessary.”
You may be familiar with the wonderful blog Grammarphobia (email@example.com). It is written by the author of the extremely, very, enormously wonderful book Woe Is I, Patricia T. O’Conner. Can you tell how much I love this book?
The subtitle is “The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English.” Not only is the book written in plain English, it is written in clever, entertaining English. O’Connor frequently makes allusions to popular culture, for instance when giving this correct pronunciation:
“Nuclear. Pronounce it NOO-klee-ur (not NOO-kyoo-lur). ‘My business is nuclear energy,’ said Homer.”
Here are some more phrases that sound almost right—but aren’t. Check to see if any belong to you:
- For all intensive purposes It’s for all intents and purposes.
- One in the same should be one and the same.
- Make due Nope. You need to make do. Make what you have do what you need.
- By in large is by and large.
- Do diligence is not something done. You want due diligence.
- Peak one’s interest This has nothing to do with height. It has to do with pique, sharpening your interest.
- Shoe in? This has nothing to do with footwear. It’s shoo in, the way you would shoo your cat inside at night.
- Extract revenge. Nothing is being removed. You are going to exact revenge.
- Doggy-dog world. You’re describing a highly competitive situation, which is a dog-eat-dog world.
- Supposably No such word. You want supposedly.