Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bluephie's and Apostrophes

English teachers, rejoice. You have nothing to lose but your correcting pens.

This is about Bluephie’s Restaurant and Vodkatorium ( It’s not just the food, which is good. It’s the menu. The menu is an English teacher’s delight, or possibly nightmare. Every English teacher should print its online version and take it to school for his/her students to correct, by filling in the missing letters that are replaced with apostrophes, and by correcting the uses of small rather than capital letters. For me, this menu is a lesson in apostrophes. It’s also about capital letters, but that is secondary.

Bluephie’s lunch menu, in its zeal to appear informal and folksy, has given the lowly apostrophe a workout.  Examples are plentiful. “serve ‘em up.” “billy’s burger bar.” “today’s selections.” ol’ fashioned cooking.” “ Lots o’ shrimp.” “lots o’ shrimp.”  “honkin’ big tortilla.” “lil’ bites.” “that’s right.” “I’ll have that.” “big ol’ cake.”

The English language uses the apostrophe as a stand-in for letter omissions, as seen in the lunch menu. It is used to show correction, as in the name of the restaurant. It is a major workhorse for people who prefer to abridge their words. I give Bluephie’s good grades for over-using the punctuation mark correctly, although I am not sure about “lil’ bites.” Should it be “li’l’ bites?”

Some other uses of the apostrophe might be confusing. For example, Bluephie’s has a kids menu with no apostrophe on the online link. Might it be a personal menu for one kid, as a kid’s menu? Might it be for all the kids, as a kids’ menu? Bluephie’s doesn’t say. Plurals are a problem for a lot of people. Bluephie’s might have chosen to have a children’s menu rather than a kids menu. “Children” is plural, so the apostrophe goes before the final “s.” Fortunately, Bluephie’s seems to have avoided the “its” and “it’s” situation. They say, “That’s right,” and sidestep that issue. We English majors know that “it’s” means “it is,” and the possessive “its” has no apostrophe.

The Bluephie’s lunch menu uses hardly any capital letters. (More folksy fun?) Even “billy’s burger bar” refers to billy without the upper case. On the home page, not the menu, is the question, “Have you ‘ate’ today?” Actually, this one goes on to use “ate” with other words using “ate” such as “celebrate.”

I think I’ll go to billy’s burger bar for some ol’ fashioned cooking. I’ll try the honkin’ big tortilla and some big ol’ cake. I have one more question. What’s a vodkatorium?