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Friday, March 31, 2006

What Mr Sanders Taught Me

My schooldays are a rather distant memory now, but one of the
teachers in particular sticks in my mind. Mr Sanders, otherwise
known as "Sam", was my English teacher for several years, and an
eccentric even by comparison with the other oddballs who
inhabited the institution where I spent my formative years.

Sam was especially known for the range of punishments he
inflicted on boys (it was an all-male school). Notable among
these was the tweak, where he took a length of hair above the
boy's ear and jerked upwards. Tweaking was an artform as far as
Sam was concerned, and his repertoire included the single tweak,
double tweak, reverse tweak, and even the Magic Roundabout and
Dambusters tweaks (performed to a musical accompaniment). I
mean, could you ever forget a teacher like that?!

Even so, Sam WAS a good teacher, and some of the things he
taught me about English I have found useful ever since. One of
these was his rule about where to place the apostrophe in
possessives, e.g. the boy's room.

Sam taught us to rewrite the expression using the word 'of'. The
apostrophe would then go after the final letter in the rewritten

So if you were talking about one boy, the rewritten version
would be 'The room of the boy'. The final letter is a 'y', so
the test shows that the expression should be written the boy's

But if you are talking about two or more boys, the rewritten
version is 'The room of the boys' - so in this case the
apostrophe should go after the 's' in the shortened version.

I have never seen this rule written down anywhere, but as far as
I know it works 100% of the time, even with unusual plurals such
as children (e.g. the children's hospital, women's clothes).
Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you here. Drink a toast to Sam if you find his rule useful!

Note: This article originally appeared in the very first issue of my E-Writer newsletter, but a number of people wrote and said how useful they found it then, so I thought I'd repeat it here!

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Anonymous Karl said...

Wow, great tip! Thank you Nick! :)

1:15 PM  
Blogger I'm a full-time mummy said...

Greetings from Malaysia!

I'm glad I clicked on this link though you have no idea how nervous I am to be commenting here... kinda like being judged by my English teacher...

Anyway, thanks for this helpful tip! Btw, I hopped over from the 7 Link Challenge! :D

I'm a full-time mummy (7 Links Challenge!)

6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about the bureau of writers?

5:55 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

What about it?

6:24 PM  

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