It really bothers me when people have no idea when or how to use a certain kind of punctuation, so they overcompensate. There’s a lot of it about, but probably the two worst offenders in this category are apostrophes and quotation marks. Well, actually, the apostrophes and quotation marks themselves have done absolutely nothing wrong. It’s the idiots that misuse them that are the problem.

The amount of times you’ll see a sign that says something like:

CD’s only $5

or a big notice that reads:

“Fresh Fruit” daily!

It’s as if they’re deliberately trying to convince you that the fruit isn’t really fresh. It’s “fresh”. You know, “fresh”, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

It’s a never ending fight and there are even those people that suggest that when something enters “the common lexicon” that it becomes acceptable. In other words, if enough stupid people band together, they’ll be able to take over the world. Once again, the lowest common denominator starts setting the bar for the rest of us. That’s why buses have signs on the driver’s window that say “Don’t enter or exit bus through window.” Why the hell would anyone need a sign like that? It’s because some bloody fool tried to enter or exit his bus through the window, fell and hurt himself and subsequently sued the bus company. Now they have to put up a sign to avoid further litigation. One idiot costing the company a fortune in stickers saying something that anyone with half a brain cell knows already.

This general acceptance when enough people jump onto the bandwagon is what gives us words like irregardless. Can you believe that the spellcheck function on Firefox doesn’t pick up irregardless? Although, ironically, it does highlight spellcheck and suggests separating it into two words. It’s almost as if all hope is lost and the idiots are going to win. But don’t give up the fight. All the time the resistance is strong we can keep the correct use of language and punctuation alive and kicking.

I’m all for the evolution of language. Language has always been an organic and fluid thing that moves and adapts with the times and is an ever more beautiful creation. But there’s a difference between accepting the emergence of new words like email and himbo and letting lazy, ignorant people get away with etymological murder.

A good friend of The Word, Michael Fridman, recently pointed me in the direction of these guys that are fighting the good fight. They highlight the ridiculous use of quotation marks in the beautifully titled blog The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks.

Also out there are people highlighting the misuse of apostrophes. There are blogs such as The Abuse Of Apostrophes In Everyday Life and Apostrophe Abuse, which are great for having a laugh at the most bizarre instances of apostrophe weirdness, but probably more important is the Apostrophe Protection Society. These guys, rather than just mock the misuse of apostrophes actually go out of their way to educate people on the correct usage. And you know what? It’s really not that complicated. If you’re unsure, go to the Apostrophe Protection Society website and have a look. Better to be educated than castigated.