16 April 2014


"Pedant: a person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning", Google Dictionary says. And here's what's at the head of the Wikipedia article on the same topic: "This article is about a person who is excessively concerned with formalism and precision. For the piece of jewellery, see pendant."

Hehe - now that cracks me up. I suppose only a true pedant would appreciate it - somebody who's picky about detail. No, I'm not a pendant; I'm not wont to dangle off pretty necklaces. And as for being a pedant - who, me? Naaah.  I never show off academic learning, do I? The fact that I tend to feel smug about being able to use grammar properly, down to the correct use of the apostrophe in the possessive case, has nothing to do with any of this. (This all sounds better when you say it with your mouth pursed and your nose elevated just ever-so-slightly.)

What got me thinking of this was that I just wrote this sentence, referring to the country of Bordavia (in Christopher Bunn's latest novella, Rosamonde): "…it's famed for its roses." Hah, get it? Two i-t+s words, one with apostrophe, one without. It's not so hard, is it? Its rules are quite simple: when it's a contraction, you use the apostrophe; when it's a possessive, you don't. Huh, you say? The apostrophe is there to replace a letter (or two) you've left out, in the case of "it's", the space and i of "it is". When it's a possessive, the "s" is part of the word itself, just like in "his" or "hers". Think of it this way: if the country of Bordavia was a "he" instead of an "it", you'd say: "…he's famed for his roses", not "hes famed for hi's roses". See? Same thing for the itses. "He's/it's" and "his/its". Simple, no? My inner pedant is purring right now.

Now, as for pendants, I'm quite fond of those, too. I have some lovely pieces in my jewellery drawer - a silver locket, a jade maple leaf (I think that was a gift from Canadian relatives when I was a kid in Germany), a silver-and-tiger-eye teardrop, a small brass goblet (made by one of my sons in art metal shop), my mother's silver cross with a small blue stone in it (an aquamarine, perhaps? I wore it at my wedding.). In fact, my favourite pendants all have meaning - they've got provenance, i.e. I remember where they came from.

There, and that's the penultimate piece of pedantry for today, explaining to you what "provenance" means, as if you didn't already know or couldn't figure it out for yourself. Pedants of the World, Unite! You have Nothing to Lose But Misplaced Apostrophes! And the really funny thing is that I just mistyped "pedantry" as "pendantry".

Life, the Universe, Pedants and Pendants. Maybe we should stick with the latter, they're prettier.

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