August 20th, 2008

At work, Self portrait

Triumph of the apostrophe's

When I was new to the English language, I would write out in full such phrases as "it is" or "you are". Later I began writing the less formal contractions "it's" and "you're". But lately I am more and more returning to writing the phrases in full again. The reason for this is that young Americans are no longer simply confusing them with "its" and "your" - they are now actively believing that "it's" is the correct spelling of the genitive and that anyone who write "its" must be lacking in education.

Language being a democracy by its very nature, it can only be a matter of time before the time-honored use of the contraction "it's" is lost in the sea of history, and "you're" is likely to follow. I expect the next step to be an invasion of apostrophes into the plural; I have seen an increasing number of examples over the last few years.

It shall be interesting to see whether this spreads all across the English-speaking world, or whether it is another step in the separation of American from English.