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Academic Paper

Title: The grocer's apostrophe: popular prescriptivism in the 21st century
Author: Joan C. Beal
Institution: University of Sheffield
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: '“Some shops use an apostrophe, wrongly, to indicate an plural (‘pea's’), but will generally omit the apostrophe when one is actually required (‘new seasons asparagus’), a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the greengrocer's (or grocer's) apostrophe. Try to avoid this.” (Marsh & Hodsdon (eds), 2008: 5)

In this article, I shall examine a range of evidence from printed and web-based sources to gauge the extent of interest in punctuation, and the kinds of discourse employed in discussion of these matters. I shall also compare this with the comparative lack of attention paid to punctuation by 18th-century ‘prescriptivists’. I shall also consider why prescriptivism has returned with such a vengeance in the 21st century, and why punctuation is a focus of attention.


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 26, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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