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Pluralising with apostrophe-s

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

That's fair enough, but seriously, PDF lab is free and tiny so what do you have to lose by trying it out?
Indeed, but as I said earlier in the thread, the plural of "Mini" (as in Mac Mini) is "Minis", not "mini's"

There are times when the 's IS acceptable for plurals:
Use an apostrophe to pluralize lowercase letters, words, and numbers that normally do not have plurals. - (Evergreen - A Guide to Writing)

"Your 8's look like f's."

"Cross your t's and dot your i's."

"Too many and's make this paragraph dull."

"Be careful to cross your t's,"

"Don't use so many but's in your writing."

"Those 9's look crooked."

However, I'm not contradicting your spelling of Minis. You're correct.
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post #2 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sequitur View Post

There are times when the 's IS acceptable for plurals

According to your evergreen guide. I'm sure that Lynn Truss would disagree, as indeed do I.

The problem is that if you say you can pluralise a digit with an apostrophe, you have one construct that can mean four different things: e.g. "9's" could mean "9 is", "9 has", "belonging to 9" or "the pural of 9". Sure, sometimes you will be able to work it out from context, but it's better to reduce the possibilities by using "9s" to mean the plural of 9.


There is never a need to use an apostrophe to pluralise a digit, and in the case of pluralising individual letters or ambiguous words, this can be achieved by placing the letter/word inside quotes, thus:

Your 8s look like "f"s.

Cross your "t"s and dot your "i"s.

Too many "and"s make this paragraph dull. (although I honestly fail to see the problem with: Too many ands make this paragraph dull.)

Be careful to cross your "t"s.

Don't use so many "but"s in your writing, again I don't see anything wrong with: Don't use so many buts in your writing.

Those 9s look crooked.
it's = it is / it has, its = belonging to it.
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post #3 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

According to your evergreen guide. I'm sure that Lynn Truss would disagree, as indeed do I.

The problem is that if you say you can pluralise a digit with an apostrophe, you have one construct that can mean four different things: e.g. "9's" could mean "9 is", "9 has", "belonging to 9" or "the pural of 9". Sure, sometimes you will be able to work it out from context, but it's better to reduce the possibilities by using "9s" to mean the plural of 9.


There is never a need to use an apostrophe to pluralise a digit, and in the case of pluralising individual letters or ambiguous words, this can be achieved by placing the letter/word inside quotes, thus:

Your 8s look like "f"s.

Cross your "t"s and dot your "i"s.


Too many "and"s make this paragraph dull. (although I honestly fail to see the problem with: Too many ands make this paragraph dull.)

Be careful to cross your "t"s.

Don't use so many "but"s in your writing, again I don't see anything wrong with: Don't use so many buts in your writing.

Those 9s look crooked.

The American way seems to be easier to type and U.S. English seems to (de) evolve faster than British English. If there's an easier way (to ruin English), Americans will find it. In teaching English at the largest college (circa 200,000 students in one city - Miami) in the U.S., I constantly struggle against this erosion. An example: "Using 'First' instead of 'Firstly" when beginning a list." E.g., "First, we did this" and "Second, we did that." I always interject: "Final, we do this." No one seems to get the irony.

Is it possible that because we live on different sides of the pond, the punctuation is slightly different? Remember the old saw: "The U.S. and England are two countries divided by a common language." - or something to that effect. However, I read several (British) English authors, and I've noticed over the years that (U.S.) English is creeping into the 'British' language. A case of "lowest" (very) common denominator. One example of that is the occasional removal of the first 'e' in 'judgement' by British authors. I'm NOT at all thrilled by these changes. I prefer the past purity of 'British'. BTW, how to you distinguish between U.S. and British English when you speak of them. I pulled my method out of thin air.

Since you are a Moderator, perhaps you should move this to another forum as it doesn't quite fit into the current forum.
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post #4 of 51
post #5 of 51
I guess that's the attitude that results in the dumbing down of language. People who don't care are annoyed by those that do care. Oh well. The reverse is also true.

On to another variation....

My last name ends with an "s". People are confused about the possessive form, whether writing or speaking. It grates on me when I see the apostrophe inserted between the two final letters, thereby changing my name! Admittedly, even saying ....s's is awkward, but at least it's correct. Some try to get away with ....s' also. But verbally, it even sounds wrong, even if the listener gets the possessive intent.
post #6 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gregg View Post

I guess that's the attitude that results in the dumbing down of language. People who don't care are annoyed by those that do care. Oh well. The reverse is also true.

On to another variation....

My last name ends with an "s". People are confused about the possessive form, whether writing or speaking. It grates on me when I see the apostrophe inserted between the two final letters, thereby changing my name! Admittedly, even saying ....s's is awkward, but at least it's correct. Some try to get away with ....s' also. But verbally, it even sounds wrong, even if the listener gets the possessive intent.

Referring back to Evergreen - A Guide to Writing - Fawcett - (used by the largest college in the U.S.) using an apostrophe after a name or word ending in S to show ownership is correct.
E.g., Ladies' dresses; James' books; Ulysses' travels; Doris' shoes.

It eliminates the ssssSibilant ssssSounds.
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post #7 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sequitur View Post

Referring back to Evergreen - A Guide to Writing - Fawcett - (used by the largest college in the U.S.) using an apostrophe after a name or word ending in S to show ownership is correct.
E.g., Ladies' dresses; James' books; Ulysses' travels; Doris' shoes.

It eliminates the ssssSibilant ssssSounds.

According to the BBC and my dictionary built in to OS X (look up the word "possessive" and see the usage note), it's only possessive plurals where possesion can be shown by the s'. In other words, all singular possessives are formed by adding 's, even if the singular ends in an "s". So, "belonging to ladies" would be " ladies' ", but "belonging to James" would be "James's"
it's = it is / it has, its = belonging to it.
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post #8 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

According to the BBC and my dictionary built in to OS X (look up the word "possessive" and see the usage note), it's only possessive plurals where possesion can be shown by the s'. In other words, all singular possessives are formed by adding 's, even if the singular ends in an "s". So, "belonging to ladies" would be " ladies' ", but "belonging to James" would be "James's"

Again, we live on opposite sides of the pond. AmericanZ speak with "forked tongues". If our text books say ' James', we use James'. Of course, this may be an example of the 'dumbing down of America'.
You're p___ing into the wind if you're trying to get us to speak British English.
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post #9 of 51
One of the differences in punctuation between the British and American branches of the language. Another is the placement of punctuation within quotation marks. In the U.S., it's nearly always placed inside the quotation marks; the British form is the other way round. I often see this done both ways within any given piece of writing. It should be done one way or the other, or it's just irritating.

Another grammatical pet peeve of mine is the possessive treatment of decades. As in, "I was born during the 1950's." Unless the 1950s owns you, it's a plural, not a possessive, so no apostrophe is used. The only major news source to cling to the possessive form of decades is the NY Times (oddly enough). It always looks so wrong to me, because it doesn't follow any accepted manual of style. I wonder why do it.
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post #10 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sequitur View Post

Again, we live on opposite sides of the pond. AmericanZ speak with "forked tongues". If our text books say ' James', we use James'. Of course, this may be an example of the 'dumbing down of America'.
You're p___ing into the wind if you're trying to get us to speak British English.

You say that, but the OS X built-in dictionary is the Oxford American English Dictionary. Check it out.
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post #11 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

You say that, but the OS X built-in dictionary is the Oxford American English Dictionary. Check it out.

You can choose which dictionary you want to use. Both (and others) are built in.
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post #12 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

You say that, but the OS X built-in dictionary is the Oxford American English Dictionary. Check it out.

It doesn't matter. I teach what I'm required to teach. I can't change it because of what the OXFORD American English Dictionary shows. If I used that, students would get it wrong on the computer tests they take.
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post #13 of 51
The latest MLA Style Manual's (2008) rule for apostrophes (in section 3.4.7) is as follows:

"A principal function of apostrophes is to indicate possession. They are also used in contractions (can't, wouldn't), which are rarely acceptable in scholaraly writing, and the plurals of the letters of the alphabet (p's and q's, three A's)."

That's pretty clear.
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post #14 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

The latest MLA Style Manual's (2008) rule for apostrophes (in section 3.4.7) is as follows:

"A principal function of apostrophes is to indicate possession. They are also used in contractions (can't, wouldn't), which are rarely acceptable in scholaraly writing, and the plurals of the letters of the alphabet (p's and q's, three A's)."

That's pretty clear.

Does it not have anything to say about possessives of words ending in s?

Also, it's a shame that it should say the principle use is to indicate possession. 's to indicate possession actually came from the apostrophe being used to contract the genitive case, which for many words was formed by adding -es. As such, I would contend that the principle use of the apostrophe is for contraction.
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post #15 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

The latest MLA Style Manual's (2008) rule for apostrophes (in section 3.4.7) is as follows:

"A principal function of apostrophes is to indicate possession. They are also used in contractions (can't, wouldn't), which are rarely acceptable in scholaraly writing, and the plurals of the letters of the alphabet (p's and q's, three A's)."

That's pretty clear.

Does MLA cover all grammar? I doubt it. Further, if the texts we use were completely wrong, I'm sure someone or some organization (organisation) would have challenged the publishers by now.
I don't know how long they've been publishing this text, but I've been using it with its many updates for over 20 years. No controversy so far!

My university English Seminar professor (who had two law degrees as well as a doctorate in English) had a philosophy: "The rules of English grammar were NOT handed down to Moses along with the Ten Commandments." He meant they were man-made. They were not even codified and written down, unlike other languages, until a few hundred years ago. They have been evolving ever since. For evidence of that evolution, you just have to follow the OED as it enfolds the latest jargon. It's not a pretty sight.
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post #16 of 51
According to the Chicago Manual of Style:

Quote:
The possessive case of singular nouns is formed by the addition of an apostrophe and an s, and the possessive of plural nouns (except for a few irregular plurals) by the addition of an apostrophe only.
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post #17 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sequitur View Post

Further, if the texts we use were completely wrong, I'm sure someone or some organization (organisation) would have challenged the publishers by now.

I don't know if these fringe cases are necessarily right or wrong situations. As far as I can tell, it's not that uncommon for style guides from different publishers to disagree. If your style guide is in the minority one could argue that it is "wrong".
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post #18 of 51
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

I don't know if these fringe cases are necessarily right or wrong situations. As far as I can tell, it's not that uncommon for style guides from different publishers to disagree. If your style guide is in the minority one could argue that it is "wrong".

Re: Dr. Millmoss' post above. Note that I did not add an S after the apostrophe - three S's in a row and a ssssibilant hisssss. Not on my watch.
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post #19 of 51
Thread Starter 
Michael Quinion Writes on International English from a British viewpoint.

POSSESSIVE APOSTROPHES

Its only a little mark, but its misuse arouses more bad temper among purists than any other punctuation. (That introduction brings to mind the irregular conjugation: I am a careful writer; you are a purist; he is a pedant.)


And what of November 5? Is it Guy Fawkes Day or Guy Fawkess Day? The one certain thing is that it isnt Guy Fawkes Day, because his name was Fawkes, with the s already on. And what does one do about Lloyds, the famous insurance market in London? How do you make a possessive from that? Names are complaining that some Lloydss syndicates were badly managed? The style guide of the Economist says try to avoid using [it] as a possessive; it poses an insoluble problem.
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post #20 of 51
Thread Starter 
http://www.google.com/search?client=...UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

I Googled "Evergreen: A Guide to Writing with Readings. See URL above. There are more than 25 pages that list it; therefore, it is apparently sold to and used by many institutes of higher education. It can't be all bad. Again, if it were completely wrong in its treatment of singular possessive proper nouns, somewhere along the line, it would have been brought to justice. Therefore, that must be common usage or at least an allowable variance.
I suppose that we'll never agree seeing as how "experts" (ahem) don't agree. We might as well pack up and close this thread. Thank you all for the great discussion. The give and take was most stimulating.
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post #21 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Does it not have anything to say about possessives of words ending in s?

Yes. It says to add an 's.

Quote:
Also, it's a shame that it should say the principle use is to indicate possession. 's to indicate possession actually came from the apostrophe being used to contract the genitive case, which for many words was formed by adding -es. As such, I would contend that the principle use of the apostrophe is for contraction.

You are correct about that. I'll have to double-check the manual when I get back into the office tomorrow to see if I mis-typed it, since that seems an odd thing to say.
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post #22 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

You are correct about that. I'll have to double-check the manual when I get back into the office tomorrow to see if I mis-typed it, since that seems an odd thing to say.

Hmmm. It looks like I may have misread your original post. It says "A principle use" rather than "The principle use".
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post #23 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sequitur View Post

Does MLA cover all grammar? I doubt it.

It contains pretty thorough and has descriptions of most grammar and usage issues. I suspect that the Chicago manual is more thorough, though, but I didn't have it within reach when I responded. I can check it tomorrow when I get back to work.

Quote:
Further, if the texts we use were completely wrong, I'm sure someone or some organization (organisation) would have challenged the publishers by now.

I'm not really sure what texts you're referring to. If it is the Evergreen guide, it is important to understand that Evergreen is the hippiest of hippie colleges with regard to English composition instruction. Didn't Evergreen even go through a phase where they didn't assign grades on student papers in Composition courses?

Quote:
I don't know how long they've been publishing this text, but I've been using it with its many updates for over 20 years. No controversy so far!

That doesn't mean it isn't in error. And again, I'm not sure what text you're talking about, so I can't say for certain.

Quote:
My university English Seminar professor (who had two law degrees as well as a doctorate in English) had a philosophy: "The rules of English grammar were NOT handed down to Moses along with the Ten Commandments." He meant they were man-made. They were not even codified and written down, unlike other languages, until a few hundred years ago. They have been evolving ever since. For evidence of that evolution, you just have to follow the OED as it enfolds the latest jargon. It's not a pretty sight.

Well, I have a Ph.D. in English, too, and your professor is absolutely correct. And I'm certainly not a pedant when it comes to grammar. I think the best we can say about the 's (and, as an aside, the comma) is that it's working its way out of the language, just like the OE genitive -es ending did (in, what, the c17?), or the long f (in the c18), or the k in "publick" (in the c18). The language changes. That's what language does. But that doesn't mean that we can't attempt to describe the rules of usage, and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't make some effort to help folks understand what we're writing.
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post #24 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Hmmm. It looks like I may have misread your original post. It says "A principle use" rather than "The principle use".

But you're still correct that an apostrophe indicates an omission.
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post #25 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

Hmmm. It looks like I may have misread your original post. It says "A principle use" rather than "The principle use".

When he probably meant "principal use."

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post #26 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

When he probably meant "principal use."


Doh! That's what I get for transcribing the style manual while watching Firefly.

/me hangs head in English nerd shame
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post #27 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

Well, I have a Ph.D. in English, too, and your professor is absolutely correct. And I'm certainly not a pedant when it comes to grammar. I think the best we can say about the 's (and, as an aside, the comma) is that it's working its way out of the language, just like the OE genitive -es ending did (in, what, the c17?), or the long f (in the c18), or the k in "publick" (in the c18). The language changes. That's what language does. But that doesn't mean that we can't attempt to describe the rules of usage, and that doesn't mean that we shouldn't make some effort to help folks understand what we're writing.

Agreed. I think one problem comes from looking for logic in grammar and style. It's much more about consistency than logic. Words are meant to be read, and our brains comprehend them better if the rules of placing them down aren't arbitrary and constantly changing out of whim. So while grammatical rules have changed, and will continue to evolve, I don't believe this is the case being made by those who simply choose to ignore them. They are either seeking a logic that doesn't really exist, or just being lazy. More often the latter.
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post #28 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

Doh! That's what I get for transcribing the style manual while watching Firefly.

/me hangs head in English nerd shame

Score one for Dr. Millmoss.
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post #29 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

They are either seeking a logic that doesn't really exist, or just being lazy. More often the latter.

I don't know about that. I ask my students all the time why they do some weird grammatical thing, and they always have the most amazing (read: ridiculously contorted) explanations. A HUUUUUUGE chunk of the problem is that lots of teachers either don't understand the rules or don't bother to explain them, and instead make up some sort of nonsense ("use a comma where you pause to breathe"!?!?) that just goes on to confuse the poor students when they have to confront a whole 'nother set of rules.
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post #30 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

Doh! That's what I get for transcribing the style manual while watching Firefly.

/me hangs head in English nerd shame

No, no, that was my bad.
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post #31 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

I don't know about that. I ask my students all the time why they do some weird grammatical thing, and they always have the most amazing (read: ridiculously contorted) explanations. A HUUUUUUGE chunk of the problem is that lots of teachers either don't understand the rules or don't bother to explain them, and instead make up some sort of nonsense ("use a comma where you pause to breathe"!?!?) that just goes on to confuse the poor students when they have to confront a whole 'nother set of rules.

I think some people believe they're being more "modern" by foregoing the rules, like there's a kind of rebellious virtue involved. Another reasoning I've encountered is the so-called "logical quotation," which seeks to dispense with the conventional use of punctuation within quotations (in American English) and without (British English). By this theory, punctuation in a quotation should be based upon where it falls in the material being quoted, as if this information is of any use or interest to the reader.

When I first heard of this I spent some time researching this theory of punctuation, and just about all I could find is that it's been adopted by Wikipedia, and no style guides that I could locate. This is a pure geek punctuation rule -- it follows a kind of logic, but is otherwise utterly useless. Someday I suppose we're going to be told that it's acceptable because a lot of people use it.
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post #32 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post

No, no, that was my bad.

/me unhangs head in non-shame!
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post #33 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by sequitur View Post

Referring back to Evergreen - A Guide to Writing - Fawcett - (used by the largest college in the U.S.) using an apostrophe after a name or word ending in S to show ownership is correct.
E.g., Ladies' dresses; James' books; Ulysses' travels; Doris' shoes.

Well, I just remember being marked down for it on a freshman history paper.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

... the placement of punctuation within quotation marks. In the U.S., it's nearly always placed inside the quotation marks; the British form is the other way round. I often see this done both ways within any given piece of writing. It should be done one way or the other, or it's just irritating.

Sorry, I'm guilty of making up my own rule, which results in doing it both ways. I frequently use quotation marks to emphasize a word. (I was also marked down for this by the same professor.) I do it when it would be appropriate to precede the word by "so-called" (another can of worms there!) or when the word is clearly being used to convey an unusual meaning. If such a "quoted" (there I go again) word falls at the end of a sentence, I place the period after the quote mark. But, if it's really a quote, such as a running dialog, I place the period before the quote mark.
post #34 of 51
That's the kind of weird rules/logic I was talking about. Want to have fun? Ask someone (an American) when it is grammatically appropriate to use single quotation marks.
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post #35 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

That's the kind of weird rules/logic I was talking about. Want to have fun? Ask someone (an American) when it is grammatically appropriate to use single quotation marks.

From memory, for quotes within quotes? I could pull down my copy of the Chicago Manual and look it up, but what fun would that be?

Incidentally, I believe one of the reasons why these guides are used so little any more is because they are actual physical books which must purchased. Just a theory, mind you.
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post #36 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

That's the kind of weird rules/logic I was talking about. Want to have fun? Ask someone (an American) when it is grammatically appropriate to use single quotation marks.

What fun would that be? Most would say, "I dunno."

And how did you get "Registered User" misspelled under your name?
post #37 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gregg View Post

And how did you get "Registered User" misspelled under your name?

Official Member Title Request Thread. Note you must have at least 1,000 posts to request a custom title.
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post #38 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gregg View Post

What fun would that be? Most would say, "I dunno."

And how did you get "Registered User" misspelled under your name?

You are the first person to notice. And I think it's been several years.
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post #39 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

Incidentally, I believe one of the reasons why these guides are used so little any more is because they are actual physical books which must purchased. Just a theory, mind you.

No doubt. The last time I taught literary research and documentation methods, I had to do a whole session on how to navigate the actual book.
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post #40 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by midwinter View Post

You are the first person to notice. And I think it's been several years.

Wlel, I've been tlod taht I'm vrey obesravnt.

As lnog as the wdors hvae the corerct fisrt and lsat letetrs, and the rihgt nubmer, you can raed it jsut fnie. Taht's prbobaly why no one noitecd beofre.
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