And this week, inspired by and jealous of Foxworthy's understated
genius, I'm stealing his bit. With the requisite apologies, I'll
start with a Foxworthy-inspired opener, then you try to guess how it
ends. Ready? Here goes:
If your idea of a good time is sitting in front of the newspaper
with a red marker scanning for errors, if you shout every time a
newscaster substitutes "who" for "whom," if you're re-reading "Eats,
Shoots & Leaves" for the fourth time and periodically shouting,
"Amen!" then you just might be ...
Are you expecting me to say, "a grammar nut" or "an
anal-retentive" or "desperate for social contact"? All good guesses,
but not what I had in mind. My point today is that, if you're someone
who takes language and good grammar seriously, you just might be ...
This tragic fact hit me not long ago as I was reading the
newspaper. In an article about Wal-Mart allegedly violating child
labor laws, an Associated Press reporter wrote that critics
"lambasted a provision requiring labor officials to give Wal-Mart 15
days notice before starting any investigations."
Now, if you're wondering whether one of the minors caught using a
chainsaw at a Wal-Mart store was your father, your uncle or both,
then you just might be, well, cosmopolitanally challenged. But if you
happened to notice the editors' choice to omit the apostrophe after
"days," then I'm sad to report that you're probably a masochist.
You're a masochist for paying attention, for caring, for bothering to
learn the rules because, as you certainly know by now, people keep
None other than the Associated Press Stylebook lays down the law
on what it calls "quasi-possessives" -- a day's pay, two weeks'
vacation, three days' work, your money's worth. The rule, AP says, is
to treat them as possessives and keep the apostrophe.
In the Wal-Mart story, I suspect one of two things happened.
Either the Los Angeles Times has decided to buck this rule and made
the change to the wire story or someone just overlooked the missing
apostrophe. I suspect the former because, if memory serves, I've