Not sure if you’ve noticed, but parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Which makes it difficult sometimes. For example, a few years ago we went to a somewhat upscale French bistro in San Francisco for dinner. Maya wanted to wear jeans, and we told her that was inappropriate, that at nicer restaurants, people wore nicer clothes. Of course, we were the only diners that evening who were not wearing jeans. Thankfully, she learns more from us at this point than the world around her, and does pay attention to what she’s wearing and whether it’s appropriate to her surroundings.
Another example of parenting not happening in a vacuum is grammar and punctuation. I can’t really blame any child growing up these days who thinks that apostrophes are to be used for plurals, when we’re surrounded by signs and ads that do just this. For example, look at this email that popped into my spam folder yesterday. Why is “want’s” possessive? Sorry, not a real word. Why is “MacBook’s” possessive? Should be “MacBooks”. Plural. My favorite part of the email isn’t the apostrophe abuse, though…it’s “…and they will even pay them!” Pay whom? The laptops? There are so many problems with this email, it seems fair to say that it’s a scam. (duh) But sometimes, legitimate businesses make these same mistakes, like the sign I saw back in December, promoting “Poinsettia’s – 3 for $7.99”. (To be fair, sometimes scammers use proper punctuation. They’re not all grammatically challenged.) With examples like these surrounding us, how is a child supposed to learn the correct punctuation? The only way I’ve figured out is to point out these mistakes in a pitying voice, “How unfortunate that those people don’t know how to use their apostrophe correctly. They don’t realize how uneducated it makes them appear. Either that, or it makes it seem as though English were not their first language.” Which it probably isn’t, but how embarrassing if it were! Hopefully, she’ll listen to us, as with the jeans in the fancy restaurant, and not follow the herd.
If, like me, you sometimes get a kick out of the stupidity of sign makers, you might enjoy Apostrophe Abuse. They have a collection of pictures of signs, mostly of people confusing their plurals and their possessives. Good for a chuckle, and for feeling just a bit superior.
UPDATED to add: Donna sent me a link to a synchronous article about apostrophe use in Britain, as defended by the Apostrophe Protection Society. Their issue is different, and seems to be more of the “is this a possessive or not” variety, rather than thinking that plurals should be treated as possessives.