R.I.P Apostrophe

Don’t talk about religion or politics at Thanksgiving dinner. This advice is frequently shared in order to preserve family harmony. For some families, grammar and punctuation should be added to the verboten list.

Take, for example, the emotion surrounding the need for an apostrophe in the title of the Laramie County Library Foundation’s Booklovers Bash. Does the event belong to a booklover? Or, maybe it belongs to a group of booklovers. Maybe the Bash doesn’t belong to anyone, it is simply a number of people gathering together. All of the above? None of the above?

We could look to the World Wide Web for guidance. There is actually conversation about the apostrophe and it is often framed using a farmers market as the example. The St. Louis Dispatch editors advise, “Some farmers markets get it right, and some don’t. No apostrophe is necessary in ‘farmers’ because the phrase is what the AP Stylebook calls a descriptive phrase, not a possessive phrase.” We know that our own colleagues at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle agree because their editors removed all of the apostrophes in a recent article submitted by the Laramie County Library System board member Elizabeth Dillow about the Cheyenne Farmers Market. Point made. Or not.

A March 22, 2019, Usage Note on the Meriam-Webster web site leaves the apostrophe door open. They state, “The apostrophe is one of the more beguiling punctuation marks, so much so that the British have a term … for such a mark erroneously inserted: the greengrocer’s apostrophe, predicated on the notion that a produce vendor’s handmade sign is likely to have an apostrophe where a simple plural is called for (e.g., radish’s rather than radishes).” Win one for the anti-apostrophe crowd.

But, wait! Just when we think Meriam-Webster is going to have the final word, they end their article with a capitulation. “As for farmers market, if you do consider the phrase to be possessive, you then need to ask whether the market ‘belongs’ to one farmer or many farmers. If it’s one farmer selling goods, you can append a simple apostrophe-s to farmer, but if many farmers are coming together for the purpose, you’d be within your rights to style it farmers’ market.” Score one for the apostrophe lovers.

So, what is it? Do we have a Booklovers Bash? Or is it Booklover’s or Booklovers’? With a decision needing to be made before Bash invitations and marketing materials go to print, we approached County Librarian Carey D. Hartmann for her final answer. She was unequivocal. From now on, we will promote and celebrate the Booklovers Bash.

Mark your calendars and get your tickets for the 2019 Booklovers Bash on October 18th! And, if you need another grammar question for your family dinner, consider deciding whether it is booklover or book lover. Let me know on October 18th.

~Kristi W.