Apostrophic Abbreviations

I remember learning about apostrophes in primary and secondary school. I remember learning that they could be used to indicate possession with the possessive s – for example, ‘Ben’s blog’. And I remember learning that apostrophes were also used in abbreviations – they denoted letters that had been omitted to make two words shorter.

This is something we all learn in school. But I think something else we learn at the same time is that there is a set of words that are abbreviated in this way (words like I’ve and you’re) and that that’s it – no other words can be abbreviated in this way.

But in the last two years or so, I realised that there really isn’t anything to stop me from using apostrophes to abbreviate more words. (It might not be considered grammatically correct by a number of grammar and spelling aficionados, but I don’t think there’s any point sticking to a rule of grammar if the rule adds nothing to the language.) There are words that I abbreviate when I speak them – sometimes if I want to write a sentence, but convey the same meaning as if I had spoken it, I want to abbreviate the same words.

So I have started doing this – I have started abbreviating other words – beyond the standard set – and here are some of the ones that I use:

  • I’d’ve – I would have
  • You’d’ve – You would have
  • They’d’ve – They would have
  • What’ve – What have
  • When’ve – When have
  • to’ve – to have
  • Couldn’t’ve – Could not have
  • Wouldn’t’ve – Would not have
  • There’re – There are
  • Where’re – Where are
  • Who’re – Who are
  • Y’know – You know
  • D’y’know – Do you know
  • J’know – Do you know
  • ‘snot – It’s not
  • ‘salso – It’s also

In this list there are words which have two apostrophes in them where I’ve smashed together three words. I find this to be delightfully absurd. Two apostrophes is altogether too many apostrophes to have in a word – much the same way that twelve sides is too many sides for a £1 coin to have – and that’s why I think it’s brilliant (and I like the new £1 coin too).

Some of these words even start with apostrophes – also a lot of fun.

It doesn’t save any time writing words like this – I write fewer characters but I spend more time thinking about when to type the apostrophes. I use these abbreviations in order to make what I write more similar to what I say. They can prevent something I write from seeming too formal and stiff.

Microsoft Word complains when I do this, of course, as does my phone when I use these abbreviations in text messages. But I have a lot of idiosyncrasies in my writing, and I’ve long since ignored Word’s opinion of it. (‘Yes Word, I do in fact WANT that line to be a sentence fragment.’)