Let`s talk about Apostrophes….


I used to be taught by a teacher who insisted on apostrophising everything. He would always refer to the ‘phone and the ‘papers, the punctuation point standing in for the missing tele and news. The habit was at the same time wondrously fastidious and gloriously silly. It would be fun to continue it to its logical conclusion: lunch’ as a shortening of luncheon, fo’rt’night as a shortening of fourteen nights and ‘bus as shortening for the macaronic voiture omnibus introduced by Monsieur Laffitte to the weary streets of Paris in 1820.

Technically, if you did consider ‘bus to be an abbreviation, the plural would be bus as well as omnibus is simply the dative plural of the Latin omnus, meaning everybody. It was a car for everybody. So it wouldn’t pluralize to bi as it was already plural…..

Mind you, I used to know another strange fellow¬† who insisted that porridge was a plural as it was a shortening of porridge oats. So “How are your porridge?” “My porridge are delicious, thank you.”

Speaking of macaronic buses:

WHAT is this that roareth thus?
Can it be a Motor Bus?
Yes, the smell and hideous hum
Indicat Motorem Bum!
Implet in the Corn and High
Terror me Motoris Bi:
Bo Motori clamitabo
Ne Motore caedar a Bo–
Dative be or Ablative
So thou only let us live:
Whither shall thy victims flee?
Spare us, spare us, Motor Be!
Thus I sang; and still and still anigh
Came in hordes Motores Bi,
Et complebat omne forum
Copia Motorum Borum.
How shall wretches live like us
Cincti Bis Motoribus?
Domine, defende nos
Contra hos Motores Bos!

– A.D. Godley 1914

That was terribly funny if you know a little Latin. If you don’t and it wasn’t, then I shall tell you what I used to tell my long suffering Latin master, that I will do better next time. Although I never did.

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