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Nobody Likes a Goddamn Pedant

March 11th, 2012

It’s been a while since I bled off some of the bile that periodically threatens to bubble over as a result of the seemingling enthusiastic and willful dumbing down of the English language that assaults me on a constant basis. Today being my favorite occasion, Daylight Saving Time (not * savings time, you inbred mouthbreathers), I thought I would focus on some time-related boners that really chap my ass.

Ah, that ever elusive mistress the apostrophe. For fuck’s sake, it’s ’70s, not * 70’s. The apostrophe serves two purposes, truncation and possession (and never pluralization). “Can’t” is the truncation of “cannot.” “Bob’s” indicates that Bob possesses something, like a sombrero. “It’s” is a bit tricky. It’s (see what I did there?) a truncation of “it is”, while “its” indicates possession.

So, ’70s is a truncation of (usually) 1970s. One is lopping off the reference to the century to save time (see what I did there?), presumably to focus on hassling Muslims in airports. Writing 70’s indicates that the decade possesses something, which, like wearing bellbottom trousers or sporting collars large enough to be capable of generating lift, is very silly.

Intermission: “past experience.” A bit like “male sperm,” i.e., yes, as opposed to what other kind?

Finally, “within the hour.” People say this because it sounds fancier than “within an hour.” The two, however, do not mean the same thing, unless the time is at the top of the hour, which is actually a handy mnemonic to avoid sounding like a knuckle-dragging hominid putting on airs. Back in olden times when few people had watches and relied instead on the chimes of clocks and clock towers to keep track of time, “within the hour” was used to indicate that something would occur before the bell indicating the top of the next hour rung. So, if it’s 11:54 and one says that something will occur “within the hour” one is indicating that occurrence will be within six minutes. However, since it is time-consuming (see what I did there?) and potentially insulting to inquire whether or not the person speaking is a knuckle-dragging hominid putting on airs (unless it is of immediate concern or funny) every time someone says “within the hour,” it’s probably simpler if everyone ceases using the phrase entirely.

And that reminds me of what a shame it is that Michael Jackson is dead. I’ve had to mothball the joke, “How do you know it’s bedtime at the Neverland Ranch? When the big hand touches the little hand.”

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