The Greengrocers’ Apostrophe makes for rotten punctuation.


These vine-ripened boo-boos can be found everywhere, not just the produce aisle.

Ever seen a sign advertising “Pumpkin’s For Sale”?

How about an arrow pointing the way to “Restroom’s”?

If so, you’ve encountered The Greengrocers’ Apostrophe. It occurs when someone mistakenly adds an apostrophe before an “s” to create a plural (e.g., Pumpkin’s for Pumpkins, Restroom’s for Restrooms.)

According to Wikipedia, the term was likely coined “in the middle of the 20th century …in Liverpool (England) at a time when such mistakes were common in the handwritten signs and advertisements of greengrocers.” (“Greengrocer” is the term our friends the Brits use for produce merchants.)

Unfortunately, the error is not limited to fruit and vegetable peddlers. This vine-ripened boo-boo can grow anywhere, often springing up far from any farmer’s market or citrus stand.

There’s something about seeing such an obvious error in public that makes many people cringe. A Facebook group – the Anti Greengrocers’ Apostrophe Strike Team – has even been established in hopes of eradicating the error.

You can do your part too:

1. Proofread anything you have to hastily scrawl. Taking a moment to check is the easiest way to catch errors you may have unconsciously made in your rush.

2. Remember that only in the rarest of cases is an apostrophe used to create a plural. For example:

• Mind your p’s and q’s.
• A lot of VIP’s attended.
• DVD’s for sale.

Even those last two are optional. The trend these days is to only use the apostrophe if it’s absolutely necessary to avoid confusion.

Which means the next generation of kids could well be learning their ABCs and not their ABC’s.

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