But I’m a firm believer that ‘everyone makes mistakes’ (I’ve probably made a few here) and so I refrain from doing what some of my former teaching mates might have done: barging into the store to make the owners aware of their mistakes, or even worse, taking an indelible marker out of their pocket and correcting the sign like a spelling superhero paid by the city council to safeguard the grammatical virtue of the community.
Does it really matter that the apostrophe in ‘tomato’s’ isn’t there? It is a regular old plural in place of the possessive. (Okay, I guess that’s plural. The breakfast special is only $10.50, so maybe it’s singular.) But that is not the point. The meaning of the signal is clear despite the fact that the only things a tomato can possess are seeds and a small green umbilical cord that connects it to the vine.
Context almost always makes the meaning clear, at least as far as apostrophes are concerned, whether the most common is/your span or is/is, which, let’s face it, when we’re emailing or texting at the speed of sound that we can all be guilty of from time to time. So why should we watch out for apostrophes if we can get by just fine without them? And will teaching grammar in schools really make a difference in lowering literacy standards?
Yes. And better yet, it will empower purist parents who are close to throwing in the towel. I am constantly correcting my children’s grammar, and they constantly don’t give a damn. I am delighted that your school now supports me because it is important that they know the rules of the language they read and write. Because without rules there is chaos, and possibly more tomatoes than you expected.
Now we just have to literally fix a few other problems and the world will spin on its correct axis again.
Chris Harrison is opinion editor.
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