My old friend Vinny got married last weekend, and though I didn’t go to the wedding, I had the pleasure of experiencing it vicariously through my friends’ Instagram feeds.
A lot of the pictures were of those photo booth strips that have the name and date at the bottom. The Petrocelli’s – June 25, 2022, they read.
Hold on, Petrocelli’s—apostrophe-s? Well, that certainly isn’t right. You’d think a photo booth company whose job it is to print timeless mementos would know how to use a goddamn apostrophe.
I screen shot a photo strip and circled the apostrophe, then sent it to my friend Dom, who’d attended the wedding. I love everything about this wedding photo montage EXCEPT the blatant grammatical error, I wrote.
What should it be? Dom replied.
No apostrophe. There’s no possession. Just like it’s not “The Beatle’s.”
But all of these pictures belong to them, Dom wrote.
Then it would be “The Petrocellis’ pictures.”
It was at this point in the exchange that I realized I was being a pretentious asshole. WHY, on the happiest day of my friend’s life, did I feel compelled to be like, Congratulations! Um, there’s actually an error on these very sentimental keepsakes.
It’s the same little voice in my head that urges me to turn to my wife in the middle of a movie and go “do you understand what’s going on?”
“I’ve been watching the same movie for the same amount of time you have,” Melinda will reply. “Why would I not know what’s going on?”
“I just thought you might not have recognized that character from the first scene.”
Melinda calls it mansplaining, which makes me feel bad, but in my defense, I don’t just talk down to females—I’m an equal opportunity prick.
I honestly wish I DIDN’T care as much as I do, because more often than not, it gets me in trouble. I come across as smug in every goddamn text conversation—all because I insist on properly punctuating sentences. Take this exchange, for example:
Melinda: Hey can you pick up some milk on the way home?
Melinda: Don’t worry about it if its too much trouble
Me: It’s not. I’ll be home soon.
I’m aware that using a period in a text message is equivalent to a giant middle finger, but I unconsciously use them. As such, I have a LOT of unintentional passive-aggressive conversations.
At work, I try to be more cognizant of the tone my punctuation conveys, which mostly means I machine-gun every email with a spray of exclamation points.
Happy Monday! Here’s that document you requested. Let me know if you have any questions!
If I’m being real, I detest exclamation points. Every time I use one, I feel like a divorced dad with supervised custody. WE’RE HAVING SO MUCH FUN, KIDS! The only piece of punctuation trying harder is the semicolon, which like, fucking relax man. You’re a period wearing a tie.
I suppose understanding how to use an apostrophe or the word whom might occasionally come in handy, but as the way we communicate continues to change, my grammatical acuity increasingly feels like more of a curse than a blessing. I’m like the guy in love with the Dewey Decimal system, holding on to an ineffective relic.
Yes, there are rules to grammar, but if the thought or idea is effectively conveyed, who cares? Nobody likes a killjoy—even if they are technically correct.
So I realized all of this mid-conversation with Dom, and I backed off. It’s okay, I wrote. I don’t think that anyone had their night ruined by it.
Not only was it not ruined, but no one even knows, Dom replied.
What bliss that ignorance must provide. What freedom.