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18/03/2010

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trevor

It would be interesting to see if and where you can find some "commaas" - in Dutch the apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of duplicate vowels in plurals (it's slightly more complicated than that), and I've always wondered whether you'd find more of this in England in locations or social groups (eg greengrocers) with economic ties to the Netherlands.

Peter Harvey

The greengrocer's apostrophe is indeed found mostly in words that end in vowels, as many fruit and veg. names do. Your theory is original and interesting. I have also seen this rogue apostrophe in English-language signs outside shops here in BCN.

Warsaw Will

This comes from 'The Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot' which seems to have been first published in 1734 (although Wikipedia have it as 1735). Google Books has a version from 1735, and it definitely says comma's.

The Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot 1735 - Google Books

This is from the Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language:

'There was formerly a respectable tradition (17c - 19c) of using the apostrophe for noun plurals, especially in loanwords ending in a vowel (as in We doe confess Errata's, Leonard Lichfield, 1641, and Comma's are used, Phillip Luckcombe, 1771)'

The relevant section is also available at Google Books


Peter Harvey

Thank you very much for those references.

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