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Culture: Grammar
Contract with ' not ’   (+2, -14)  [vote for, against]
Distinguish that which is Jim’s from what Jim’s doing

Possession and numerous contractions of noun+is take the same form. This is confusing for foreigners and locals alike.

Jim’s boxing gloves. (Placing gloves into boxes)
Jim’s boxing gloves. (Gloves belonging to Jim)

Gerald’s carving knives. (Carving knives belonging to Gerald)
Gerald’s carving knives. (Gerald is carving knives)

Martha’s chewing tobacco. (The tobacco is being chewed)
Martha’s chewing tobacco. (The chewing tobacco belongs to Martha)

This idea solves the problem by deciding that all contraction forms use ' instead of ’, retaining ’ within a word for use to indicate possessive forms.
-- vincevincevince, Jan 02 2008

What's wrong with context? Notice you didn't think I was telling you the wrong belonged to What.

Besides, what if the character set doesn't have the alternate apostrophe?
-- phoenix, Jan 02 2008

Upon approaching a welsh farmhouse, you notice a sign on the door which reads "ALED’S SHAGGING SHEEP". Context does not tell you whether the sign is informing you that Aled is out attending to sheep or whether the farmhouse is in fact occupied by sheep owned by Aled set aside for servicing.

<edit> Ah yes, forgot the question in an urge to demonstrate clearly that context is not always sufficient. Very few modern character sets which support the english language lack both types of apostrophe, and I presume that those who do lack it will not be able to make use of this simple clarification.
-- vincevincevince, Jan 02 2008

Ah, but what about legacy compatibility. Things that have been written using a arbitrary choice of ' or ’?You could introduce the use of " for one of the forms. The one that annoys me is the inconsistent it(')s. eg, It's the goat that has its horns stuck.
-- marklar, Jan 02 2008

There's usually a good work-around with a hyphen.

Jim's boxing-gloves,
Gerald's carving-knives,
Martha's chewing-tobacco and
Aled's off in Llanfair - pwll - gwyngyll - gogerych - wyrndrobwll - llan - ty - sili - o - gogogoch, but 'e'll sort you out good and proper when 'e gets back.
-- pertinax, Jan 02 2008

Or the DnD work-around:
Jim's gloves o' boxing,
Gerald's knives o' carving,
Martha's tabac 'u chewing.
-- marklar, Jan 02 2008

Another problem is that handwriting doesn't really discriminate between the two characters. Worse yet, my keyboard only appears to have ' , at least in a readily accessible format.

In any case, ambiguity is one of the joys of language. That's why Shakespeare's plays weren't written in C++
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 02 2008

The last thing english needs is new flypoop marks cluttering up the letters. Look at what is happening to French, and they have only a few accents. The Normans had the foresight to leave behind the accent marks when they showed up to take over Britain and it would have been a blessing if they had done away with punctuation as well. And made everything phonetic. And uppercase.

Maybe the next time the US finds itself with an imperial president, he can devote his energies to reforming the language, Attaturk style.
-- bungston, Jan 02 2008

Its hard enough to get people to use apostrophe's correctly at all. Although theirs an interesting problem addressed here, I dont' think the solutions a good'un.
-- egbert, Jan 02 2008

OK, do you really think that the grocery store that doesn't understand why "15 items or less" is a problem will really figure out this obscure distinction?

Not. The best solution is to lose the possessive apostrophe altogether. There is no compelling need for it. We managed it for "its", I think we can handle it the rest of the way. And Bob's your uncle. Don't know who Bobs uncle is, but Bob's yours.
-- globaltourniquet, Jan 02 2008

This is some dumb idea writing.
-- nomocrow, Jan 02 2008

//Shakespeare's plays weren't written in C++// I feel sure that, between us, we could fix that.
-- pertinax, Jan 03 2008

Not only could we fix it, but we should ....

"Shakespeare is good in English, but you need to read him in the original Klingon ..."
-- 8th of 7, Jan 03 2008

// In any case, ambiguity is one of the joys of language //

Yes, and no.

Yes in terms of literature, ambiguity can add colour and humour to prose. However, look at the ridiculous lengths the legal fraternity have to go to in order to minimise ambiguity.

Ideally, the language would be ambiguous when desired and precise and specific when needed.
-- Brett-Blob, Jan 03 2008

//ambiguous when desired and precise and specific when needed.//but it already is! One of the first things I learned in scientific writing was to look at a sentence, and see if there was any possible way in which it could be misinterpreted. Then fix it. It is invariably possible to write precisely and unambiguously, and the result is often more concise the first ambiguous attempt.

I challenge anyone to give me an ambiguous sentence which can't be made unambiguous with an increase of less than 12% in characters.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 03 2008

Here goes.
-- pertinax, Jan 04 2008

I think [Max] is right.

Disambiguating "here goes" with <12% added chars (in fact we are adding one character, which if we count the space and period constitutes a 10% increase, or 11% without the period):

Here goes*.

*Implied subject is "an attempt to create an ambiguous sentence that cannot be disambiguated with less than a 12% increase in characters"
-- globaltourniquet, Jan 04 2008

For the challenge: "Thank you very much"
-- vincevincevince, Jan 04 2008

Hmm... may I point out that the conjuror has attempted to conceal an additional 138-character string down his (her?) trousers?
-- pertinax, Jan 04 2008

// For the challenge: Thank you very much //

Show gratitude (thank) to the impersonal other (you) extremely, fantastically, enormously (very) a great deal, a large amount (much).

There you go, and all with only a 12% increase in the size of the sentence.
-- Brett-Blob, Jan 04 2008

Also for the challenge: That sucks doe snot.
-- globaltourniquet, Jan 04 2008

//Brett-Blob// ignoring the fact that your sentence is now much more than 12% increased; it is still ambiguous whether it is an expression of thanks or of sarcastic ingratitude.

On getting a great gift: Thank you very much. = thanks
On being splashed with ditch water by a passing car: Thank you very much. = sarcastic ingratitude
On being given a chopping board for Christmas: Thank you very much. = ambiguous...

Disambiguate, please, [Max]
-- vincevincevince, Jan 04 2008

This is what happens when people with an unhealthily mathematical approach to life decide to "improve" language. Just let it evolve, fergawsake (with any luck towards punctuation-free contextually driven simplicity). You would, for all the "context is everything" reasons, have to be a world-class bubblebrain to be confused by most of the examples that have been given, or by most examples, come to that. Any genuine confusion is likely to be less life-threatening than it is mildly amusing.
-- Murdoch, Jan 04 2008

//On getting a great gift: Thank you very much. = thanks// "Thank you very much." (Expresses meaning accurately.)

//On being splashed with ditch water by a passing car: Thank you very much. = sarcastic ingratitude// "You bastard!" or "You idiot!" (Depending on whether the speaker wishes to imply that the splasher did it deliberately, or through stupidity.)

//On being given a chopping board for Christmas: Thank you very much. = ambiguous...// In this case, the intention of the original sentence is to be ambiguous, so it's pointless to ask for a concise disambiguation.

//Fuck you, Max.// Did I miss something, [UB]?
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 04 2008

Don't mind [UB], he's Australian.
-- wagster, Jan 04 2008

Oh, right. So "Fuck you, Max" is sort of a friendly greeting there?
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 04 2008

No, but it passes for wit.
-- calum, Jan 04 2008

Is being held at gunpoint by a Scottish lawyer a regular occurance there, too? Or is it someone else holding the gun...?
-- globaltourniquet, Jan 04 2008

I can see that I'm going to have to pick up the lingo if I'm not going to grasp the wrong end of the stick. But thank you for expanding my vocabulary. I'll try and remember to say "Fuck you, pal" to the Australian immigration officer.

[UB], if you're ever in the UK and want to appear to be one of the locals, it's traditional to greet our friendly bobbies with a cheery "Good evening wanker." They will find this so endearing that they are liable to insist on inviting you back to their place for the night.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 04 2008

//to the extent you've begun sending them over here?// Not since about 1790 through to 1870. How's it going over there?
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 04 2008

Excellent - we're relieved to see you lot made it. We hadn't heard much for the last century or so, apart from some guy with a beard who did sketches. Oh, and that film with the hobbits. Nice to see you chaps overcoming your setbacks.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 04 2008

What, [Maxwell] did you miss all those nature shows where all those chaps named Bruce get impaled?
-- globaltourniquet, Jan 04 2008

Looks like I did. But I'm sure they were awfully good.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 04 2008

Cricket? Alas, I'm more of a croquet man myself. However, if cricket is your game then stick with it. They do say that if a nation can find just one thing that it's good at, then it can preserve its self- respect against tremendous odds.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 05 2008

I haven't seen body-line bowling like this since, well, the "body-line series".
-- 4whom, Jan 05 2008

Neatly side-stepping the developing Anglo-Antipode relations here to pipe up that while I don't think this would work as an 'official' rule of language - it would be a great way of teaching children how apostrophes work.

A contraction is a straight line, contracted - while possession is denoted by a little marker showing who it is that's in possession. A nice, simple rule that's easily remembered, and can be carried out in handwriting - if I ever get any kids, I'll be using this on them! [+]
-- zen_tom, Jan 05 2008

Arrrrgggh! I'gree with Zenbeard's sediments. Spare th'apostrophe, spoil the child.
-- 4whom, Jan 05 2008

Quite so, [UB]. Still, 'tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Do give my regards to Gandalf.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 05 2008

"not much difference to be had between the Welsh, Scots and English". I'd watch out if I was you, UB. That kind of loose talk could render you whacked upside your kiwi (that's what we call people from Australiashire, isn't it?) head with a combination leek, thistle and shamrock flavoured stick.

It's a culture and nation thing, you see - not a great deal to do with whether the inhabitants of places where getting stabbed in the heart by a fish or hanging yerself while having a sly five-knuckle shuffle make you a national hero can make such fine distinctions. But then, when you realise that the difference between Australia and yoghurt is that yoghurt is a living culture, you'll understand. (I know - it's my single transferable joke).


Grumpy Mac Bastard,

-- Murdoch, Jan 07 2008

I see your last anno's been replaced, and that all the others that displayed your trademark conceit and rudeness have been deleted. Did you decide for yourself that calling someone a "rude cunt" when you don't like their annos was out of line or did someone with

a) grace


c) a modicum of decency do it for you?

You're a coward, too.
-- Murdoch, Jan 07 2008

Keep digging, UB. You'll make a hole big enough for that head, and it's lovely turn of phrase, yet. I just have no respect for you, but plenty for everyone else, not least of all for their forbearance in the face of your cack-handed insults.

"If you're going to be rude at least try to be funny."

-- Murdoch, Jan 07 2008

Acrimony precipitated by a contraction should be reserved for the cuckolded.
-- 4whom, Jan 07 2008

Sp: quantification
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 07 2008

//your last anno's been replaced, and that all the others //

Pity; as one of those 'ten thousand Pommie migrants [who are] mostly wankers', I was going to offer [UB] a friendly hairy-palmed wave from the other side of Australia. ;)
-- pertinax, Jan 08 2008

random, halfbakery