Apostrophe Catastrophe!

So says the Mail.

This all started with a drink. But it very nearly didn\’t because when I looked at the cocktail list in the otherwise swanky Charlotte Street Hotel in London and discovered that martini\’s (sic) were £10.50 and classic\’s (sic) £10.50 I momentarily lost my thirst.

The price was bad enough. But did you have to pay extra if you wanted to have your drink correctly punctuated? And would a martini  –  mine\’s made with Plymouth gin, please, very dry, shaken with a twist  –  taste as good if it also contained a stray apostrophe?

Caught up in a spasm of punctuation-rage I, perhaps slightly aggressively, asked the poor waitress what those two utterly extraneous apostrophes were doing there. She backed away hurriedly and sent over the assistant bar manager.

Mariusz Szymecki may have been Polish but his English was fluent. Or almost fluent.

\’Both spellings  –  martini\’s and martinis  –  are correct,\’ he said firmly. \’I know this is right because, when I heard what you wanted to know, I checked it on Google.\’

On Google? Who in the name of a thousand question marks would rely on Google to be an authority on anything, least of all a grammatical matter?

The internet is awash with misspellings and punctuation solecisms. Nor is it much better out there in the real world. And the poor apostrophe is the subject of more abuse than any other dot, dash or squiggle.

It\’s a nice piece of outrage of course….but our Pole is has rather more behind him than our outraged writer, Victoria Moore, does.

Because, you see, a martini isn\’t named after the drink, the vermouth. Rather, it is named after a New York barman* who first started making them (it\’s a simple variation on a once popular drink, gin and vermouth, variations of which used to be "gin and French" or "gin and Italian" and which has since morphed into all sorts of things like Rob Roy, Manhattan and so on).

So, while unusual, martini\’s (or perhaps to be precisely correct, Martini\’s) would be allowable, as it is the drink first created by Mr. Martini.

Another example of Muphry\’s Law perhaps? Or a corollary?

* Of course, it is possible that this story is entirely bollocks.

13 comments on “Apostrophe Catastrophe!

  1. Who was Muphry and what is his law?

    Tim adds: Muphry’s Law….that any piece complaining about typos or grammar will have at least one error in grammar or typo worse than that being complained about.

  2. Sheesh! Just the customer every waitress wants: an an escapee from Pseuds Corner.

    Madam needs a few more martinies – with or without viral apostrophes added to the mix – if she’s trying to turn the Mail into the TLS. Better yet might be dearime’s solution…

  3. Tim: bollocks.

    Would you be equally acquiescent in the case of a small electrical goods distributor who posted a sign in his window claiming to have a large selection of “Hoover’s”? No, you would, ceteris paribus, excoriate him, and rightly so.

    A ‘martini’ (note capitalisation) is now (by usage) a generic cocktail based on vodka or gin, plus sundry accoutrements. A Sea Breeze is a martini. A Cosmopolitan is a martini. A Manhattan is a martini. In this sense young Vicky is entirely correct, and I applaud her. Her case is bolstered by the fact that the drinks menu she cites includes ‘classics’ with a grocer’s apostrophe. This is prima facie evidence of ignorance rather than intent.

    Inability to use correctly an apostrophe is, in my experience, a handy pons asinorum in deciding whether one’s correspondent is worthy of further intellectual investment.

    Yes, I am a pendant*.

    * thus I hesitatingly genuflect to Muphry’s Law, or Skitt’s, or whathaveyou, and proffer a sacrificial token, whilst knowing the futility of so doing.

  4. I have to agree with David Gillies. Just because a martini is named after man named Martini doesn’t mean that it should have an apostrophe after it to make it plural. A proper noun needs an “s” after it to make it plural, just like regular nouns do.

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