Is it 1900's or 1900s?

The stodgy New Yorker magazine, which spells out almost all numbers, and still puts all titles between quotation marks, is a hold-out on using the apostrophe for 1900’s.

Pride goeth before a fall, Exapno. :smiley:

It’s fo’c’s’le, short for forecastle. (To be fair, this is probably the most obscure instance of Gaudere’s Law ever.)

Does anyone else remember the New Yorker cartoon in which a lowly sailor, writing a letter home, asks a companion, “How many apostrophes in fo’c’s’le?”

Nope, I checked. Both are acceptable alternates.

Well, dictionaries, as we all know, are descriptive, but how can the two-apostrophe “fo’c’sle” be anything but a commonly made error, since the clear function of the apostrophe (in cases like this) is to signify missing letters, and there definitely is a missing T between the S and the L.

I think you lucked out and found a cite this time, Exapno, but your reputation for infallibility is seriously tarnished. You’re not down to the level of Cecil/Ed yet, but I’m keeping an eye on you! :smiley:

It’s because Exapno is being consistent in being deescriptivist. Why is there sometimes not a third apostrophe in fo’c’s(’)le? Because that’s the way it’s written. Why is the contraction for “will not” written and spoken “won’t” rather than “willn’t” – certainly the positive is “I will” not “I wo”? The only answer is, Because that’s the way good English speakers and writers speak and write.

When I give an answer founded in style or usage, it’s descriptive of the consensus as to what “proper English” accepts and does not accept. “It’s me” is just as correct as “It is I” because that is how the majority of people using the English language choose to say and write it. This does not mean, however, that you can therefore use “me” and “I” interchangeably in other situations – “Between you and I” is considered a solecism, and no one but David Sedaris writes “Me talk pretty some day.”

The “rules” of English usage are the descriptive standards of what a more formal written English does and does not accept as proper ways of expression. Sometimes (as in my argument about “Chair” and “Chairman” or the meaning of “decimate”) it’s a fight to retain precision against sloppy usage. Twickster can probably give examples from her editing work of situations where sloppy common usage results in unclarity, even if the dictionaries document common usage of the “sloppy” meaning. (“Viable” with a meaning antithetical to “able to continue life” is a classic example.) This does not mean that the Lord High Arbiters of English Prose have ruled from some metaphysical authority they possess as to what is prescribed as correct or incorrect; it means that there are standards of meaning that a consensus of writers working in a field believes needs to be preserved. (There is, for example, a clear difference between “dissolve” and “melt” despite common usage of one for the other.)

Even though I am a prescriptivist at heart (and would be first to apply for the job of Lord High Arbiter of English Prose), I agree with most of what you say, Polycarp. Much that starts out as non-standard English becomes an expressive part of the language.

But I object when something that starts out as an error, and has little or no possibility for actually enhancing communication, becomes enshrined as “proper” just because a lot of people are dumb. One of the latest examples of this is “begging the question.” I won’t launch into that discussion here, but it annoys me, even though I know that battle is long lost.

However, I think that descriptivists have a much harder task in defending what I see as an outright “misspelling” of fo’c’s’le, when the “rule” for using apostrophes is perfectly, mathematically clear (“replace missing letters with an apostrophe”) and the failure to follow it just as clearly arises out of confusion. Unlike splitting infinitives, “hopefully,” and any number of other “errors,” the use of the “incorrect” fo’c’sle cannot be defended as in any way improving communication or enhancing the language. It’s just a mistake that became so common as to be enshrined in some dictionaries.

I say this is one case in which what is common can be said to be simply, objectively wrong.

Nice try, Teeming Minion, but it gets worse for you.

Entering “fo’c’s’le” into Google garners 22,800 hits. Entering “fo’c’sle” gets 59,700.

And wait. The Encarta College Dictionary entry for forecastle lists only fo’c’sle. Same thing for the American Heritage College Dictionary. Those are the two I have on my desk. I have five or six others, but you’re going to rile me if you make me stand up. :eek:

My copy of Collins English Dictionary has both fo’c’s’le and fo’c’sle and says that they are variant spellings of forecastle. The auto spell check in Safari only flags the version with two apostrophes.

And so does the OED. :smack:

Just another sign of the inevitable downward spiral of civilization into sin and degradation. O tempora O mores!

Although, in a small sign that there is some justice in the world, Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (Second Edition, 1971), the big unabridged I keep close at hand, lists only fo’c’s’le.

This reminds me of the fact that Lewis Carroll abbreviated “can not” as “ca’n’t”. He also used “wo’n’t” (perhaps assuming that this is an abbreviation for “would not”). Clearly, a prescriptivist.

well i think it looks great with the thing and if you dont like my reply to this suck it!!! im a 13oss:confused::eek::):rolleyes::mad::cool::p;):D:o:dubious::(:smack::):confused::eek::rolleyes::cool::p:smack::smack::smack::smack::smack:


Oh lordy, school must be out again.


To throw another hat into the ring: when I was in college in California 4-6 years ago, my 300 and 400 level history professors all said no apostrophe.

Are you referring to katherinemorris’ youthful exuberance or are you suggesting the pedants in this thread are teachers freed from grading papers written in Leet and able to argue with others of their sort over niggling, little details as they once dreamt a career in academia would entail?

This thread was raised by a troll, who has been banned. Since it’s old, I’m going to close it.

General Questions Moderator