Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Insanity of Apostrophe(')s

Clearly, I'm a dork.
I must be, because I've got myself worked into such a tizzy over nothing. And I don't even have a clue what a tizzy is!

(Webster does, though: a highly excited and distracted state of mind. Yes, yes I believe it's true. I'm officially in a tizzy.)

I was driving home earlier tonight, listening to ESPN Radio. Doug Gottlieb's show, "The Pulse," was on, and he was talking baseball. Makes sense, seeing as how there are some pretty important baseball games on these days.

As filler material in between calls and e-mails, he was tossing around the question of the correct usage of the term "RBI." A single run batted in is an RBI, but how are multiple runs batted in supposed to be abbreviated? If you say RBIs, then you're literally saying, "runs batted ins," right?

For the record, the Associated Press Stylebook says the correct usage is RBI (s.) and RBIs (pl.). I happen to agree with that, but it doesn't chafe my hide either way if people want to say RBI or RBIs when talking about multiple runs batted in.

If you say, "Manny drove in three RBI, but the Sox still lost by four," it doesn't affect me any more or less than if you say, "Jeter's nine RBIs in the last game couldn't save Joe Torre's job, because the Steinbrenners are total assholes."

I say and write "RBIs," simply because I think it flows better, not because the AP Stylebook tells me so. I've put up my dukes against AP style before, and will again in the future, to be sure.

Gottlieb has a cutesy little name for guests on his show that he's known for a while, introducing them as a "Friend of Doug," or an "FOD." Blending this with the RBI query, someone called in and asked if two or more guests were on at once, would they still be "FOD," or would they now be known as "FODs?" Got a chuckle out of me that he was blabbering on and on about RBIs and FODs, and I was enjoying the listeners' responses.

Here comes the tizzy part. After a few listeners called in to voice their opinions, some guy gets on the air and says, "Hey Doug, I've got your RBI answer. I teach English, and if there are more than one, then it's plural, so it needs an apostrophe s."

Gottlieb kind of interrupted him before he was finished with what he was saying, so I looked at my radio to make sure that I didn't just hear what I thought I just heard. But Gottlieb was kind enough to confirm it for me. After a little bit of conversation, he asked the caller, "So you're saying the correct way to say it and write it is 'R-B-I-apostrophe-s.'"

"Exaaaactly," was the English teacher's reply.

I nearly stood up in my driver's seat as I reached to pull out my hair, glaring at my radio's display, and shouting, "Nnnnooooo!!"

Just because this guy said he was an English teacher from Albany, he had Gottlieb convinced that he knew what he was talking about, and that his word was now law. But RBIs are not possessive. They don't own...anything. (I suppose a good example to the contrary could be: "The RBI's effect on the outcome of the game is still being argued by amateur baseball analysts around office water coolers nationwide.")

I've never called in to any ESPN Radio talk shows, even though I listen to many of them when I'm driving. But before I knew it, I was reaching for my phone, traffic accidents be damned. I had to rush to an English emergency!

*busy signal*

*busy signal*

1-888-SAY ESPN

*busy signal*

(repeat about a dozen more times for effect.)
(actually...I just checked my phone log. I dialed it 18 times before giving up. this was serious stuff! I don't take apostrophe abuse lightly.)

Obviously, Gottlieb's show is over by now, and the urgency with which I needed to reach the host has passed. I haven't sent him an e-mail since I've been home, but I also haven't ruled that possibility out, either. I wanted to come and rant on my blog, first, and release a little of this stress.

So to recap, I don't care if you say RBI or RBIs, but if you ever catch someone writing RBI's, please point them in the direction of this blog entry, and not toward an English classroom in Albany!

I can just feeeel the ulcer starting to fester.
I need some milk.
And perhaps three or four pain-relieving tablet's.

"If the English language made any sense,
a catastrophe would be an
apostrophe with fur."
—Doug Larson


  1. You wanna see tizzy? I'll give you tizzy. Stress + the estrogen of three Meara girls + Halloween candy that IS (no apostrophe) within arms reach = tizzy...(I heart elipsises's) pretty much 24/7.

    I "updated" my blog and lost your link. My bad.

    FYI: NaBloPoMo 07....3 days. I bet you can't do it.


  2. You found me out! (or have you been talking to various members of our blogging "community"?)

    I've been thinking about giving NaBlo a shot, and talked to Jeff Messerman about trying it, too. He's all signed up already...something I still have to do. And now it's almost here.

    Since I ran away from my blog for like seven years, I figured I should do something to get back in the swing of things. Although 30 days in a row will be more challenging than it sounds, I know it will.

    So...I THINK I can do it. I'll find out starting Thursday.

    Can yooouuuu do it, too? :O)

    (I'm so glad my tizzy is only of the punctuational variety. yours seems a bit more, um, involved. hope you're getting through it OK, E.)

  3. Oh, I've always been checking :) I just lost the link.

    I won't officially sign up but I may just try to do it and see what happens.

    I may have been exaggerating a tad on the whole tizzy thing... just bein' a goof. All is well.

  4. OMG, since when does a plural require an apostrophe? Seriously, WTF?

    Excuse me while I vent with my word's. And excuse any typo's, as my finger's are typing so fast.

    Honestly, you'd think someone in the studio would have caught that ridiculous mistake! No true English teacher could have possibly said soemthing so incredibly stupid!

    BTW, I find it interesting that the term "RBI" is actually all capitalized. Maybe I'm wrong, but isn't the word now accepted as just that - a word? Doesn't it now stand by itself, aside from an abbreviation? After all, some people say it like it's spelled, when they say "ribbies."

    Just a thought...