As I’m sure most of you have figured out by now, yesterday’s post was a joke for April Fool’s Day. There is no Peter Andrews of the media relations department at Merriam-Webster online. If you look up “its” in the dictionary, you’ll still find multiple definitions for the iterations that go with and without an apostrophe. The multiple incorrect usages in my entry–Its a legitimate spelling, because M-W says that its so–are just as wrong today as they were Monday.
What surprised me was how much this posting struck a chord with readers. I expected surfers to be on the lookout for pranks yesterday, but it seems as if this English error really has spread across the web like kudzu. So prevalent has the “its/it’s convergence” become (thanks to thesaurus.com for helping me describe it) that my report of Webster’s formal approval was taken without question by all who came across it.
[Insert standard I’m-no-prescriptivist disclaimer here]
I’m really not. I happily contribute to the flourishing of hopefully as a speaker-oriented sentence adverb in popular speech and Internet comments. There’s no other word like it. I enjoy beginning written sentences with “and” and “but.” Realizing that a word like “gift” is now accepted as a verb, insofar as it’s become the root of a gerund favored by PR parasites in Hollywood (see “gifting suite”, “gracious gifting”), excites rather than enrages me. I’m into that whole full-stop. In sentences. Thing. Used sparingly, it can do great things for your style.
BUT. When someone sends me an e-mail with “Its official” in the title, I don’t expect an e.e. cummings masterpiece from some brave linguistic trailblazer. I am loath to click on that slothful subject line. I dread opening that hastily typed, impulsive missive, sure to come from some self-interested slacker who is either too important or too absent-minded to respect the rules of grammar in a letter from one native speaker to another.
Grammar. Because how else would you spot spam?