Return Address Rage
Not going to sugar coat this. I haven’t sent Christmas cards since my kids stopped being cute.
That was about 2003.
Not that my offspring are unsightly. Not a bit. But I began sending annual cards with their photos when they were babies. In little more than a decade they grew from adorable cherubs into pre-teens.
Who wants to look at braces and acne on a Christmas card?
So I stopped sending them. And I didn’t resume once my kids’ skin had cleared and their teeth were straight.
Hey, I’m lazy.
Consequently, people stopped sending cards to me. I have no idea if they still mail them to others and just crossed me off their lists or if they, too, lack the energy.
The upside of not sending and receiving cards? I don’t experience nearly as much Christmas rage as I once did from encountering return address labels with errant apostrophes.
I’ve written many times about the love affair Americans seem to have with apostrophes. I even took matters into my own hands a few months ago and begged a shop owner to change her sign. She didn’t.
During the holidays apostrophe abuse is rampant. Your friends are not content to affix a return address label saying their card is from The Smiths. They want to be The Smith’s. Perhaps they think that makes them sound like people with lots of possessions.
With the popularity of personalized items abused apostrophes are cropping up in unexpected places.
Even on Christmas balls.
A few years ago, I got into an unmerry Christmas standoff with an artist who was hand-painting glass balls in a boutique. Her ornaments featured holiday scenes that she personalized. (I had a similar encounter a year later with a woman personalizing wine glasses. What is it with artists and apostrophes?)
Customers were asked to write down the name they wanted on the ball and return later to collect it.
I jotted down a surname and handed it over. The artist glanced at my order and nonchalantly added an apostrophe before the "s."
Our exchange went something like this:
"No apostrophe on that," I said.
"Yes there is, “ she insisted.
“Uh, no there isn’t,” I retorted.
“I've been doing this for years. You always put an apostrophe before the 's' on last names."
"Doing it for years doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it right for years," I hissed. "There are lots of things I know nothing about, but I do understand apostrophes and this ball doesn't get one."
"The customer is always right," she sniffed, turning back to her work.
"Yeah, well, in this case the customer really is," I muttered.
Seems to me that with the billions the U.S. spends on education, we ought to attain a basic level of literacy that allows all of us to know how to make a word plural and possessive.
Since we don’t, I’m here to help:
To pluralize a surname add an “es” to names that end in S, X, Z, Ch and Sh. Add an “s” to all other names.
No apostrophes. Ever.
Better yet, sidestep the issue entirely and simply write “The Smith Family.” If that’s your name, of course.