by Susan M. M.
Author's Note: Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. Based on characters and situations created by Rockne S. O'Bannon. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing, although I am hoping to derive some intellectual profit from the reading of it.
"There's also a problem with apostrophes," Ford explained. "Apostrophes are not used to indicate plurals." He looked pointedly at Krieg as he spoke.
Krieg, in a rare bout of discretion, kept his mouth shut.
"Apostrophes should not be used in the plural forms of nouns. However," Dr. Westphalen offered as a codicil, "in certain expressions that are not nouns, an apostrophe followed by an S is used to form the plural: figures, letters, signs, words referred to as words."
"Words referred to as words?" Lucas repeated. "That's confusingly self-referential."
"You, O writer of long sentences, tend to use too many and's in your sentences," she pointed out to the boy. "If I were writing your performance review, I would write that sentence by putting an apostrophe-s after the word 'and'." Her gaze fell on Dr. Ungar. "Or I might say that someone's penmanship was so atrocious that I could not distinguish his n's from his m's."
"In modern English, apostrophes are used to form contractions and to indicate possession," Captain Bridger stated. "For contractions, the apostrophe takes the place of one or more missing letters." He pushed a button and brought up a new image on the screen. "Secretary to sec'y, international to internat'l, do not to don't, we are to we're - "
"Not to be confused with were or where," Dr. Westphalen interrupted.
"Which brings us back to they're, there, and their, which Dr. Westphalen mentioned earlier," Ford concluded.
"For the possessive form of any singular noun, add apostrophe-s. Do not change any letters. Do not add any letters beyond the apostrophe-s. Do not delete any letters," Bridger instructed.
"Do not pass Go; do not collect two hundred dollars," Krieg muttered under his breath. Hitchcock kicked him again.
"To form the possessive of a plural noun, first write the noun. If it doesn't end in S - a twenty-five out of twenty-six chance -add apostrophe-s, just as you would for a singular noun. If a plural noun does end in S, just add the apostrophe without an additional S." Bridger called up a new image on the screen.
Dr. Westphalen read aloud, "A shark's teeth. Sharks' teeth. A man's life. Men's lives. Do you understand these examples?"
"Contractions and possessives - nothing else for apostrophe-s. Is that clear?" Bridger asked.
O'Neill opened his mouth, then shut it again. Originally, the possessive form of nouns had been a contraction: Bridger his boat became Bridger's boat, Lucas his book became Lucas' book. However, he doubted his crewmates would share his interest in linguistic evolution. He already had enough of a reputation as a geeky techno-nerd; he didn't need to add to it.
Author's Note: When I started to write this chapter, I had planned to say that under no circumstances should apostrophes ever be used to indicate plurals. Then I double-checked the 1965 edition of Building Better English, an 8th grade grammar book I picked up for fifty cents at a thrift store, and learned the rule about making plurals of numbers, figures, signs, and words referred to as words. (7's, j's, *'s, and's, etc.) If I ever learned that rule when I was younger, I had long since forgotten it. Obviously, I am not the Guru of Grammar. I guess both old saws are true: you learn something new every day, and any book you haven't read yet is a new one. I'm using the 1965 textbook because I've mislaid my copy of Strunk & White's Elements of Style, and it's a fascinating time capsule. No mention of computers, and when it talks about clear communication on the telephone, it mentions party lines, like on the old Lassie TV show.