Something That’s Been Bothering Me.

Something That’s Been Bothering Me.

Besides the Christmas music and decorations and Black Friday Sales that begin at 12:01. . .

It’s related, though. The opening salvos of the Christmas attack are the catalogues. So many, they could feed a small country for a year on what they cost. (Or on the catalogues themselves, depending on whether the people are hungry enough to eat catalogues.) Naturally, the first to arrive feature the same-ol’-same-ol’ crap, but PERSONALIZED. These companies need a smidge more time to get their products out, because it takes a little longer to PERSONALIZE the items.

Now, there’s not a heck of a lot of need in most peoples’ lives for items with their names, initials, cutesy crap with the grandkids printed on the bottom in a different font, but these companies manage to stay in business. Why? Well, besides the fact that you can’t really return a PERSONALIZED item to the seller, they’ve captured a very special gift-giving niche. People who can’t pick out a decent gift to save their lives, but who want to make sure the recipient is stuck with it, love these things. They’ve gone through the whole business of never seeing Khriztyne display that fabulous glow-in-the-dark Mary on the half shell that sings “I got you, babe” if you clap twice. No matter how many times they showed up unannounced. Mickaighla says that the collector’s edition cow salt and pepper shaker broke. So did last year’s collector’s edition cow salt and pepper shakers. And the year before’s. But you could have sworn you saw them at her church’s rummage sale. But you’ll show them. Once they have something PERSONALIZED, they can’t regift it or garage sale it, and you can make such a big deal about having had it PERSONALIZED for them that they’ll have to use it at least a couple of times in your presence. Oh, yeah. Khriztyne is going to have to put her “No Parking Except For Khriztyne” sign up on her garage. Mickaighla might be able to use her rolling duffel bag only once before the crappy wheels fall off and the handle breaks, but you can engineer a trip so she has to use it, and you can get so excited that she’ll feel guilty throwing it away (and she certainly can’t give it to someone else named Mickaighla.)

This isn’t really the point, though. The reason this stuff bothers me in particular is because of one common error that I see, almost always, on mailboxes. On mailboxes, scattered about relatively infrequently, and easy to eventually ignore after multiple viewings, is the egregious “possessive apostrophe”. You know the one. “The Smith’s”. I can look at these and dismiss the error after an initial shudder, chalking it up to the inferior education of someone who makes a living painting mailboxes. I can sometimes rationalize that the mailbox was one of those PERSONALIZED gifts from a well-meaning but grammatically challenged friend or relative. I did have a real problem with seeing one of these in front of the home of one of our local school administrators, until I read a few of the letters home and realized it was just part of a larger problem. Still, these are just a few mailboxes. Once the catalogues start arriving, I’m deluged with images of innumerable items with this stupid mistake. This means that other people are, too, and bit by bit, more people begin thinking that it’s correct.


Look, people, an apostrophe never indicates a plural. Therefore, you’re changing what should be something plural into something singular. You’re making a noun into an adjective. Think about what this little PERSONALIZATION is trying to say.

In the case of the mailbox, it’s answering a question. “Who lives here?” The grammatically correct mailbox cheerily answers, “The Smiths (do)” Of course, it leaves off the “do”, because it is unnecessary, and might give the impression of superciliousness.

The grammatically incorrect mailbox, however, either doesn’t understand the question, or didn’t hear it quite right. “The Smith’s”! it bellows, thinking not only that the question was “Whose house is this,” but also that the entire family Smith, including the dog and the parakeet, are a single entity. The Smith is kind of like the Borg Collective. The Smith owns the house. This is the house of the Smith. This mailbox does not leave off a word out of politeness, but out of ignorance. Its proclamation begs the question, “the Smith’s what?” The reader is left wondering who this Smith is, that he is singled out as the sole proprietor of whatever it is the mailbox says he owns. (The reader, fortunately, will probably pass by the mailbox and be out of range before the Smith Collective can assimilate him.)

Now, I have to give kudos to a most unlikely ally in the fight against the creeping apostrophization. As I was looking for examples, maybe an amusing image to add, I went to Lillian Vernon right away. OMGWTFBBQ! Doormats, plaques, frames, all without the apostrophe! What a pleasant surprise! In fact, I found a lot more items on the web without the apostrophes than I have in print catalogues so far. Could we be moving in the right direction? I can only hope. . .when I start seeing those mailboxes coming down, it will be a true sign of progress, and I will rejoice.