According to the best estimates of the National Retail Federation of Planets, Americans will be spending $15.3 billion celebrating Dear Old Pater Familias today … about $8 billion less than we dished out a month ago paying homage to the other end of the kitchen table.
Dads shouldn’t feel too bad … it’s amazing we even had that much left over to spend on golf balls, underwear and barbecue tongs.
Still, today’s holiday — and we’re not talking about World Juggling Day, National Vinegar Day or No Orange Clothes Day (if you’re in The Netherlands) — brings up the usual disturbing questions:
First, why do so many men receive underwear as a gift? There’s just something a tad icky about buying your dad his boxers or briefs. I never, ever, never … in no way … nohow … no shape or form … ever gifted my mother with a set of undergarments.
But, Fruit of the Looms for Dad? He’d be shocked if he didn’t get a set (or two) of three.
While you ponder that, let’s get to the point here — or, rather, the apostrophe.
Where should we stick it? Should it be:
Happy Father’s Day … signifying the recognition of a singular male parent;
Happy Fathers’ Day – recognizing all fathers, particularly if you have more than one through adoption, marital history, or having a two-dad family;
Or, do we play it safe and go with Happy Fathers Day (which stipulates that this is the day to pump-up Pops, putting aside the perplexing punctuation pedantry altogether)?
Clearly, it could be worse: We could ruminate over whether ellipses, dashes or parentheses are the proper tool to perpetuate a theory or prolong a thought.
But we won’t put you through such torture.
That the most-accepted usage is “Father’s Day” (or Mother’s Day) is neither here or there … neither here nor there; what matters is that in the pantheon of punctuation, an apostrophe is the weird wedding present from a rarely-seen relative — it just hangs around, takes up space; you’re never sure where to put it, but you have to keep it and set it out properly in case the gift-giver shows up.
New Year’s Eve/Day is obvious, and somewhere along the line the apostrophe retired from the service of Veterans Day. As for Valentine’s Day ... well, that’s one you best not screw up.
The thing is, the rules for apostrophes are a laundry list of do’s and don’ts — including, as you just saw, the one stuck between the o and s of “do’s” — which, to me, is only there for the purposes of symmetry.
I must admit (and here we segue) that I’ve always had a bit of uncertainty when confronting the d-o-s construction, particularly when you add a stray e into the mix.
Does “does” rhyme with buzz or goes? Both, of course, although neither sounds similar to taking a dose of something in order to doze. It’s not exactly the aw, ow, oh, ooo, uff, off, och and up dilemma Ricky Ricardo faced when dealing with learning the pronunciation of “ough,” but we all have our own dementors.
Such as (and here we segue back) the apostrophe in do’s. It’s not a possessive; nothing belongs to the “do.” And in terms of avoiding confusion, does anyone actually think that “dos and don’ts” would mean that you’re either showing off your grade school Spanish or contrasting things you shouldn’t do to a disk operating system?
And yet, there it hangs … having no purpose other than to ensure that copy editors mind their p’s and q’s (a phrase for which there are any number of derivations … but, all requiring an apostrophe).
Meanwhile, the deeply disturbed style-setters at The Associated Press — the same people who recently decreed that the plural of emoji is “emoji” (as if it would matter to emoji-users) — have dictated that while a straight-A student brings home grammatically unnecessary straight-A’s, they earned those high marks learning their ABCs — lest we somehow think those grades are property of the American Broadcasting Company or the Antigua Beekeepers Cooperative.
Make a mistake with an apostrophe, however, and even the best student can have a blemish on his or her permanent record; or, in the case of actress Emma Watson, a transitory blemish that will live permanently in cyberspace.
Watson, a graduate of both Brown University and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, showed her support for the defense fund for those who have experienced sexual harassment, assault or abuse in the workplace by having “Times Up” temporarily tattooed on her arm.
Watson apologized for the apocalyptic apostrophe catastrophe, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the artist who would be Hermione Granger erred on purpose to bring even more publicity to the cause she was championing.
Hermione’s father, by the way, was a dentist — and, of course, a muggle (not that there’s anything wrong with that) — who was proud of his daughter’s powers, despite the dangers.
In return, she protected her parents from the threat of Death-Eaters by giving them new identities and erasing their memories until the Second Wizarding War had passed.
Perhaps there’s a spell to protect us from apostrophes. It’d be a far-sight better than getting a pair of orange underwear on National Vinegar Day, that’s for sure.
Parentheses, a dash and ellipses walk into a bar ... send your punchlines to Mail Tribune senior designer Robert Galvin at email@example.com.