Apostrophetically speaking

Why should I sell the Canadian farmers’ wheat?

So asked Pierre Trudeau, a Canadian Prime Minister in the sixties.

“Why on earth am I reading that quotation here?”, asked the readers of Status-Q.

Well, simply because it struck me when I saw it in the Economist this morning as a lovely illustration of why kids need to be taught how to use the apostrophe, something which appears not to be fashionable in schools today.

The Economist, of course, got it right. But if Trudeau had asked “Why should I sell the Canadian farmers wheat?” it would have had almost exactly the opposite meaning – a ‘coals to Newcastle’ scenario.

And if the apostrophe had been one place to the left, he would either have been questioning a specific favouritism to one farmer, or making some more general statement about a stereotypical agrarian Canadian. We think the latter more likely because we happen to know he was PM of that country, but had M.Trudeau been a grumpy flour merchant in Provence who disliked one of his new immigrant neighbours, things might have been different.

Anyway, nothing earth-shattering here. I simply offer it to parents who need more examples of why homework is important!

1 Comment

I’ve just finished reading “Eats, shoots and leaves” for about the third time. I find my usage of colons and semicolons goes up dramatically afterwards!

And as the son of a greengrocer, I find I’m a stickler for apostrophes too 🙂

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