The grocer's apostrophe
House bile is an occasional feature explaining a) what to do, (2) what not to do and iii. why that convention you've been following is dumb. This time, we look at the grocer’s apostrophe.
The only thing more annoying than the sight of a grocer’s apostrophe appearing on shop signage, product labelling or in correspondence from your child’s Montessori-ish primary school is the self-satisfied voice of the man (it is almost always a man) who points it out.
Here is an allegory:
My favourite greengrocer in Manchester is Khawaja Brothers in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. It is next to a Polish bakery and delicatessen and opposite an (also good, if a little bit much) co-operative vegan supermarket. My preferred barbershop is in the vicinity, as is the coffee shop and roastery from where I buy my beans, which are grown on a Guatemalan farm by an all-female staff committed to women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability. A little further down the road is my favourite pizzeria, which serves 90-second wood-fired pies with a sourdough crust raised from a starter older than me.
I cannot afford to live in Chorlton. Even if I could, I highly doubt I could bare myself on a long-term basis. Instead, I live in a much cheaper, but still very pleasant neighbourhood a couple of miles away. It is from my home office, and occasionally a branch of an international coffeeshop brand, that I am an editor. Out on the street, I'm an asshole pedant – just like you – and I should keep it to myself.
—That is the end of the allegory.
You are not editor-in-chief of the high street, or any other part of the public sphere. Errant or absent apostrophes in commercial premises are no more an indictment of a failing state education system than they are of the intellectual lowliness of a given shopkeeper. They are mistakes made by industrious people who are too busy doing what they’re good at to worry about what they’re not.
Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with your own life and its myriad shortcomings, and seek the sweet relief that comes from pointing out that you could have spelt potato’s better. Well, congrats.
Now pipe down, peewee.