Pity the poor apostrophe. It often shows up where it doesn’t belong, and is missing in places where it should find a home.
The most common example is its and it’s. The first one is possessive, meaning “belonging to it.” The second is a contraction, meaning “it is.” They are used incorrectly all the time — you probably have even found examples on this website and in our newspaper, we admit with a shudder.
And then there are the signs around town.
At Las Estancias Park, a lovely little swath of open space with playground equipment on Santa Fe’s south side, the wooden park sign from the city announces that it is “Las Estancia’s Park.” Curse those words ending in “s.” There’s such an urge to turn them into possessive nouns. Even if you wanted to say it was the park belonging to the Las Estancias neighborhood, the apostrophe would go after the “s.”
Then there’s St. Michael’s Drive in Santa Fe. The street signs say it’s St. Michaels Drive, as if the saint’s full name really is something like Bob Michaels. No, it’s Michael the archangel. It’s St. Michael’s High School. Why isn’t it St. Michael’s Drive? Are apostrophes not allowed on street signs?
It’s enough to make English teachers throughout the city shriek.