Tagged Images on Flickr

Two sets of images on Flickr: one called "Quotation Mark" Abuse and the other Atrocious Apostrophes. Yes, grammarmarms are on Flickr.

Here are sample images from each set:

While I don't find the use/"misuse" of the apostrophe doing much work in the samples, there seems a patterned and vernacular use of quotation marks to denote emphasis.

In a document design sense, I find "this" less distracting than this as long as readers know that "this" is equivalent to this. A few more examples:


  1. yah! I think rmh posted on this and someone there (maybe her) called some of these "grocers' apostrophes." (My quotes, btw, are "attributive."

  2. I "think" "using quotation marks" is "good." You get "more points."

  3. Whaddya mean, the apostrophe isn't doing much work? It's a warning for readers of a nervous disposition that there's an "s" coming up! :)

  4. Annnd, a sign that reads "Tattoo's" tells you not to get a textual tattoo.

    I "like" all of these comments.

  5. There's an amusing bit about the quotation marks in Money.

  6. Anonymous7:09 PM

    This kind of thing is quite interesting. Obviously, many instances of quotation marks used like this are really a form of emphasis, as you pointed out--and in the cursive sign with "Baby" and "Jones" I rather think the quotes look good--they pop out at you as though someone were doing jazz hands over both those items. Given the context and the target audience, I'd say it's a pretty effective use of quotation marks.

    Even so, certainly people who do not consider themselves grammar marms are not interested in the details of forming s-plurals and the possessive case, so in a way it's not particularly constructive to expect full compliance with a copy editor's rule.

    (As an aside, I copy-edit and proofread other people's translations all the time and often encounter instances of the possessive case of nouns "incorrectly" formed. If this is something that highly educated speakers of more than one language cannot always get right in their own formal writing, then it's annoying to encounter criticism of signs composed by people running small businesses outside the high-profit world of nominal morphology. But I digress.)

    I have another thought about the grocer's apostrophe, and perhaps it isn't an original thought. But it seems like the apostrophe is often used to sort of "insulate" the keyword/headword from its morphology. For instance, if you're selling "books," you want people to focus on the fundamental concept of "BOOK," so you use the apostrophe to "protect" the word from its plural ending. I think it's probably a subconscious thing. But it's not unlike apostrophe-s plurals sometimes used on abbreviations, e.g. PhD's, etc. The tattoo parlor maybe wants people to focus on the root word "TATTOO," and the apostrophe sets the root apart from the ending nicely.

    I have no evidence, and like I said this may not be an original idea. But the notion makes sense to me, and I suspect there is some truth to it.

    What on earth is the point to the apostrophe-s anyway, though? Other languages use an s-possessive exactly the way English does (e.g. Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and less so Dutch, Flemish, and even German), and no apostrophes are needed there. Hmm. --tt

  7. As anonymous implies and dhawhee can certainly tell us that KB says more explicitly, even those who misuse quotation marks understand implicitly that the text enclosed within the marks is in a voice different from that of the rest of the text.

  8. no doubt, Mike, and they work that way! (even if the marms among us cringe at any "misuse")

    tt: I totally like your theory about "insulating" the keyword/headword. And to add to your list of examples of this, we see it sometimes in the work of document designers and typographers, the separation enacted through color and size.

    Now I should find instances of THAT for a flickr folkonomy!