Monday, September 22, 2003

I am furious with Hollywood.

Last night we rented The Core on dvd. Not a great movie, but I was entertained, despite the outrageous premise that sent an expedition of experts hurtling toward the centre of the Earth to "jumpstart" the planet's engine in order to reestablish the electromagnetic field and thereby life as we know it. But then, in the final moments of the film, something so egregious... It ruined the whole movie for me. I'm still fuming.

The computer geek hacker character is posting "top secret" documents on the web. As the texts are being transferred, we see the message box stating "ON IT'S WAY". Now, it doesn't require a whole lot of suspension of disbelief to buy into the idea that a computer geek can't spell very well; au contraire, I find it difficult to conceive of a non orthographically challenged hacker. However, any insight into character through this detail is vastly overshadowed by its obvious wrongness and in drawing such attention to itself (the screenshot is the focus of our attention for some seconds). It's an example of Hollywood's sloppiness. This is why in real life software developers have quality control people, authors have editors, etc — though the guts and working of things is of primary concern, the superficial details count too. It would've taken but seconds for the moviemakers to change "IT'S" to "ITS", and it would've spared them my wrath. I'm not asking them to set an example for our children, but I do wish they wouldn't contribute to their illiteracy.

Worse is promotional material for "Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat". It's "Dr. Seuss's" with an apostrophe ess. Helena and I were just reading Dr. Seuss's ABC board book this morning. At least the book publishers got it right — they're supposed to be word people after all. But a major corporation marketing a product for and to children should know better.

Apostrophes are responsible for a lot of grammatical errors in English. I don't see what's so difficult about them: 1. "it" = possessive, "it's" = 'it is'; 2. to form a possesive add 's to a noun, even if it ends in "s" (with some established exceptions). If you "pronounce" the apostrophe ess, it belongs there.

Apparently the AP Stylebook calls for a simple apostrophe for s-ending words, but that's a poorly thought-out (if space-saving) prescriptivism, and Universal Studios shouldn't be guided by a handbook for journalists.

(I have emailed Universal Studios via their feedback form on the Cat in the Hat movie site.)


Anonymous said...

I may be showing my illitacy here, but i thought that if the form of the word was plural then you would stick an apostrophe on it without an ess to show it in its posessive from. if this is true, this mistake makes it look like universal studios are trying to claim there are many people called Dr Sues, who just happened to have collaborated to write this book.

Isabella K said...

I grew up having learned that for words/names ending in ess, the possessive is apostrophe ess if you pronounce it. So, Mr Jones's hat, but my favourites books' titles (because you don't say books's). But it seems the simple apostrophe is sufficient by several style guides' standards, notably those used by newspapers, where space is a concern. I'm over it.