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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Out, damned apostrophe!


 There has been a mini-flutter among some of my facebook friends who seem to feel for some reason that it is important to write "Hallowe'en" rather than "Halloween". 

Halloween has been written without an apostrophe since at least 1773, according to the OED, and among the people using that spelling were Robbie Burns and Queen Victoria. There is no more reason to spell it with an apostrophe than there is to write "fan'cy" (contracted from "fantasy"), "gam'ut" (contracted from "gamma ut"), "lau'nder" (contracted from "lavender"), or "goodb'ye" (contracted from "God be with ye"). I think you can let it go!
For more on why the apostrophe is doomed, visit this post.
For more on the pronunciation of "Halloween", see this post.

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  1. Love the file name: "out-damned-apostrophe."

  2. Though interestingly the OED entry is "Hallow-e'en".

  3. Hi Lee,
    That OED entry was compiled in 1898!

  4. I like the trivia on fancy, 'good-bye' (no longer hyphenated), etc. These days the majority drop their hyphens; it doesn't become wrong to punctuate words correctly, if you know how.


About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.