Author Topic: apostrophe problem  (Read 10701 times)

Offline eric

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #30 on: June 19, 2010, 08:24:48 AM »
I agree with your point of view Nick, with this slight emendation.  I think years can be either plural or possessive, depending on meaning.  For example, if you have a year's worth of coffee, that is a large quantity of beans sufficient to make that year's coffee.  This is a sum, such of which it is worth so to speak.  If you have ten years of secrets, or insider trading, these things are not readily aggregated into one lump sum.  They don't even exist corporeally until written down.  They are spoken or signed seriatim on the trading floor or in the bedroom of your paramour.  So the first type of thing is a quantity of goods that exists in space, the second is a series of actions or events that exists in time.  Thus you might say more easily "a year's worth of coffee," and "ten years of secrets," if your categories are straightened.  (This is not a cure-all, just an approach.)

One thing I would suggest is that the "worth" usually should not be elided when using the possessive.  It clarifies the sense and makes the thing sound better to my ear, at least.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2010, 09:08:58 AM by eric »

Offline Nick

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #31 on: June 19, 2010, 09:45:36 AM »
Interesting point, Eric. I don't disagree with you, but I also think that Leah's earlier comment has some merit. She observed that  "ten years of" (without an apostrophe) implies a certain degree of exclusivity - ten years of hard labor, for example, implies that this is basically all you did during that time. "Ten years worth of" something, on the other hand, doesn't carry this implication. For example:

Ten years of arguments with my wife (implies that all we ever did was argue).
Ten years worth of arguments with my wife (still a lot, but we did other things as well!).

It's a subtle difference, but as the example above indicates, it might be quite an important one!

Nick  :)

Check out my writing blog at www.entrepreneurwriter.net. I also have a new UK personal finance blog called Pounds and Sense.

Offline WordBird

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #32 on: June 19, 2010, 09:52:48 AM »
I'm still struggling with the idea that adding the word "worth" makes something possessive, requiring an apostrophe.

For example, I started out my post:

My 2cents worth.

2cents worth of my opinion.
My opinion is worth 2cents.
2cents of Insider Secrets.

I'm still just not seeing a clear cut grammatical rule here, which is probably why we are all seemingly on both sides of the fence.

Offline Nick

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #33 on: June 19, 2010, 10:33:25 AM »
The expression 2 cents' worth does definitely require an apostrophe, although in practice it often gets omitted.

If you think about it, you wouldn't write 'a cents worth' or 'a dollars worth'. There has to be an apostrophe in these expressions, and the same therefore applies in the plural (when the apostrophe comes after the 's', of course). An example would be five dollars' worth, which is short for 'a worth of five dollars'. The quotation I found online below puts this another way...

Quote
Another more common problem is the use of a possessive form when literal ownership is not involved.  Here, we are still using the possessive shorthand as a substitute for the "of" or "for" phrase even though the situation does not involve true possession.  Usually, this occurs with sums of money or periods of time.  For instance, we refer to the wages for  a week as "a week's wages."  (That is logical; one cannot correctly make "a weeks" possessive because there is no such thing as a weeks.)  And the worth of a dollar is a dollar's worth.  Here one needs to be very careful not to err with words ending in s – a vacation of two months is two months' vacation; the worth of  two dollars is two dollars' worth.
From http://www.grammarmudge.cityslide.com/articles/article/426348/4944.htm

Apostrophes - don't you just love them?

Nick  :)

Check out my writing blog at www.entrepreneurwriter.net. I also have a new UK personal finance blog called Pounds and Sense.

Offline WordBird

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #34 on: June 19, 2010, 10:41:52 AM »
Gotcha,

So airborne, I believe we may have beaten this topic into oblivion and developed a solution to your challenge.

Rename the book:

How To Become A Male Escort For Ladies: 101 Insider Secrets Revealed

 ;D

Offline Nick

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #35 on: June 19, 2010, 11:05:48 AM »
LOL. Worth five dollars of anyone's money  :D
Check out my writing blog at www.entrepreneurwriter.net. I also have a new UK personal finance blog called Pounds and Sense.

cmb

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #36 on: June 22, 2010, 01:57:43 PM »
Going back to the one year's worth of coffee and the ten years of secrets...

(What's that? You say I'm just like a pitbull? Yes, you're probably right.  ;)  )


How about if we revealed one year of secrets? We wouldn't say one year's of secrets, would we? So, there we have it: no apostrophe.


Oh, and my copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves arrived. (I double-checked the title for punctuation, and it seems like Lynne Truss deliberately chose the incorrectly punctuated sentence for the title of her book, naughty girl.  :D  ) I'm enjoying it very much - as is my 16-year old daughter. It's a great read.

Thanks for the recommendation, Hugh. A real bargain at only £2.67.

Offline Hugh

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #37 on: June 22, 2010, 02:26:12 PM »

(What's that? You say I'm just like a pitbull? Yes, you're probably right.  ;)  



Nah. You’re female, that’s all. I have a wife and two daughters, so your reluctance to let go of the bone doesn’t surprise me.

Anyway, who was it that introduced the imaginary “worth” into “ten years of secrets”?

Glad you like the book.

Hugh

cmb

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #38 on: June 22, 2010, 02:48:31 PM »
Anyway, who was it that introduced the imaginary “worth” into “ten years of secrets”?

What? Did anybody introduce some imaginary worth?   ;)

cmb

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #39 on: June 22, 2010, 05:41:37 PM »
Now guess what?

I caught my 11-year old (who used to be a very reluctant reader until about a year ago) reading Eats, Shoots & Leaves.  I sat on the couch with her, reading a book about Tai chi, and she kept asking questions about things she didn't quite understand, so I kept explaining.

Cool, isn't it?

Offline Nick

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #40 on: June 22, 2010, 05:57:36 PM »
Wonder how long we can keep this going  ;)

There is nothing wrong with 'One year of secrets'. It just implies that it's literally that - a whole year of secrets.

'One year's worth of secrets' implies that the secrets were discovered (or uncovered) over the course of a year, but other things happened during that year as well.

And you're right, we wouldn't say one year's of secrets. Eliding 'worth' in this expression is not idiomatic. But we might elide the word 'worth' in the expression 'ten years' of secrets'. Of course, if that's what we mean, as Eric says, we should maybe write 'ten years' worth of secrets' and avoid any ambiguity.

Nick  :)

Check out my writing blog at www.entrepreneurwriter.net. I also have a new UK personal finance blog called Pounds and Sense.

Offline eric

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #41 on: June 23, 2010, 12:03:20 PM »
Again Nick is right.  I also think there's another aspect he doesn't mention in regard to what is now on the table.  The more common way of saying a year of secrets would be, I think, a year's secrets (with the worth implied).  But this suggests to me the secrets are tangible things, already spoken or written down, that can be aggregated.  You are speaking of the quantity here.  If the secrets happen at odd times in the year, and you wish to refer to timeframe, you might say a year of secrets, like the winter of our discontent.  This is speaking in a temporal sense.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2010, 12:09:15 PM by eric »

Offline thatollie

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Re: apostrophe problem
« Reply #42 on: June 27, 2010, 08:09:12 PM »
Why do you need the apostrophe? Can you have the word "of" after a possessive noun?
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