It’s the way it’s done

I did something very unhealthy just a moment ago. I nearly got into an Internet argument. Of course, the argument was on something I’ve come to hold dear: grammar.

Now, I’m not saying I’m the greatest grammarian in the world. Without the aid of a computer, I probably wouldn’t even try to spell grammarian, but just because I’m not skillful in an area doesn’t mean I would throw it under the bus to feel superior. For instance, I know very little about the internal workings of modern automobiles, but I usually don’t argue with my mechanic, even when he explains the reason my car vibrates over 80mph is that my break rotors are warped. I might be skeptical, but I figure he knows more about it than me. (He was right too. One turn on the lathe and the wobble went away.)

So, back to my budding Internet argument. I found a handful of people on Google+ arguing that “it’s” should be used as both a possessive pronoun and as a contraction. I simply stated the difference in that “its” was it’s own word like “his,” not the possessive form of “it.” Of course, I had to add that there was one exception to the rule: one’s. This in English after all. We can’t have a rule that works consistently.

They wanted to disagree, saying that “his”: is a new word, unlike “its” which adds and “s”. Of course this is wrong. Just because “it” and “its” look alike, doesn’t mean they are the same word. The verb “Tune” and the noun “Tune” look alike, but that doesn’t make them the same thing.

Still, language is malleable, and English is evolving, but let’s put that all aside and look at it this way: English is difficult. The rules are contradictory and change not only between dialects but also between style guides. Unlike so many other rules, “It’s” vs. “its” is clearly defined everywhere in the English-speaking world. It’s the same whether you pick up the Chicago Manual of Style of the Oxford University Press Guidelines. The rule might be a little tricky, but it’s unambiguous. In a language where almost nothing makes sense. We have hung this one issue up to dry. It’s done. Finito. Kaput.

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