As I child while I learnt grammar at school, my teacher of English was very particular about the correct usage of punctuation.
I am being a bit careful using this word, “Teacher of English”, as I had been taught by him that I should not use the words, “English Teacher”, which would technically mean a teacher who is English, i.e. who is from England.
Though I was quite sure that either usage is correct, as a student I never had the audacity to disregard his words. However, over the years, I understood that the usage would depend on where I put the accent. If I put the accent on the word “teacher” then it would mean “a teacher from England” whereas if I put the accent on the word “English”, then it would mean “a teacher who teaches English”.
Even an idiot like me could understand that “English teacher” is idiomatic and I learnt that even in UK, that’s how it is commonly used. To be candid, I haven’t ever heard a native English speaker say “Teacher of English” except to differentiate from a teacher of some other subject.
And when I used the word “English speaker”, I am careful yet again, for I haven’t heard a single soul ever saying “Speaker of English” either. Just to put records straight, even this “Teacher of English” of mine would refer to the teachers of other subjects in my school as “Maths Teacher” or “Geography Teacher” and so on.
Though I had difference of opinion with him over the way he wanted himself to be referred to by us, one aspect of his teaching which was totally unambiguous was his insistence of correct use of punctuation.
The story of how comma killed a man, which he used to narrate to us during our class, and I still recollect. It’s the story of an enemy who was captured by the King’s army and they sent a message to the King for further orders. The King sent his order thus, “Kill him not, wait for me”. The army chief was read out the message thus, “Kill him, not wait for me”.
Punctuation is an important aspect of the word framing and Apostrophe as a punctuation was taught to us as used to indicate possession of something (e.g. John’s hat). That was the time when using short words skipping letters or numbers was considered blasphemous and sacrilegious English.
Over the years, I understood that an Apostrophe is also a punctuation mark used in contractions to replace missing letters. The contracted words will replace the missing letters in the actual word or words (e.g. we’ll stands for we will). It could mean the omission of numbers too where the omitted numbers are to be assumed (e.g. 9th July ’16 where the apostrophe has replaced 20 in 2016).
Today as we live in the era of text messages and 140 character Twitter updates, using apostrophes for contractions surely allows us to convey our thoughts in fewer words and thus represent a more efficient way to write. But let us admit that just because it’s shorter and easier, we shouldn’t get carried away and start contracting any two words in the English language, or else it would lead to catastrophe.
Just because “is not” and “are not” can be contracted to “isn’t” and “aren’t”, “am not” would not become “ain’t”. PS: Christina Aguilera may kindly note. Though it may sound so tempting, we can surely not contract “will not” to “willn’t” or even “win’t”. Perhaps the contraction of “will not” may be a weird exception to the apostrophe rule, as it becomes “won’t”.
Though “he has” and “he is” can be contracted to “he’s” and “I am” becomes “I’m” as well as “I have” contracts to “I’ve”, “I’s” is absolutely a no-no as there is no such usage as “I is”.
Amusingly, there may be some contractions which may seem to be grammatically correct but is not used in common English. “Where’d” is not “where would”, “why’d” is not “why would”, “when’d” is not “when would”, “why’d” is not “why would”, “what’d” is not “what would” and “when’d” is not “when would”.
When we would be wondering that these contractions could never be used, let me clarify that it can be. “Where’d” is “where did”. Now isn’t it sound easy with the other words? “Why’d” is “why did”, “when’d” is “when did”, “why’d” is “why did”, “what’d” is “what did” and “when’d” is indeed “when did”.
When we are stretched for shrinking our words while texting and tweeting, we tend to contract words which aren’t even in the dictionary and surprisingly they don’t follow the rule of apostrophe too.
Image courtesy: www.kibin.com
If this piece of information on apostrophe has helped you from falling into a catastrophe, or even if it has made you smile a bit, you can post your comments using a few contractions like LOL, ROFL or even LMAO, I have NP. 🙂 BRB with more, TY.
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