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Old Yesterday, 07:53 AM   #1
William Parcher
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Apostrophe Apocalypse

Do apostrophes still matter?

Originally Posted by BBC News
A man who led the war on improper use of apostrophes now admits defeat, saying his grammar vigilante campaign has been brought to an end by a culture of carelessness. So what now?

The battle is over, bad grammar has won.

That was the message of retired journalist John Richards, who announced the end of his 18-year campaign to preserve the proper use of the apostrophe last month.

"We have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times has won," the 96-year-old wrote.

Richards founded The Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to defend the "much abused punctuation mark", waging war against advertisements for "ladies fashions", or the much maligned grocer's apostrophe, used to sell apple's and pear's.

"When I first set it up I would get about 40 emails or letters a week from people all over the world," Richards told the BBC. "But then two years ago it started to tail off and nowadays I hardly get anything."

The misuse of an apostrophe can have an outsized impact.

A new holiday in Ghana - Founders' Day - incited heated debate this year over the nation's history, focused squarely on the placement of punctuation. Whether the country should honour a singular founder (Founder's Day) or a group (Founders' Day) strikes at the heart of Ghana's independence legacy, and hinges on precise use of the apostrophe...
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50692797
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Old Yesterday, 08:00 AM   #2
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Its a loosing battle.
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Old Yesterday, 08:02 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
Its a loosing battle.
That's a mute point.

Dave
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Old Yesterday, 08:03 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
That's a mute point.
Your not funny.
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Old Yesterday, 08:15 AM   #5
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An academic interviewed on NPR a few years back made a compelling case for why the apostrophe should be retired.

In search of a cite, when I google "apostrophe eliminate" I get Excel tips and tricks.
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Old Yesterday, 08:16 AM   #6
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The greengrocer's are out dancing in the street's.
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Old Yesterday, 08:20 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
The greengrocer's are out dancing in the street's.
And Mike Skinner is upset about it?
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Old Yesterday, 08:21 AM   #8
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The ignorant use of the word "grammar" for any damn thing related to written language bugs me even worse than fumbled apostrophes.
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Old Yesterday, 08:25 AM   #9
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Can anyone think of an example where, in context, the meaning of a sentence is ambiguous if apostrophes are left out? We manage just fine in spoken English and that has no apostrophes.
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Old Yesterday, 08:36 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
Can anyone think of an example where, in context, the meaning of a sentence is ambiguous if apostrophes are left out? We manage just fine in spoken English and that has no apostrophes.
No. They'll pretend they can but they can't.

That's always been my issue with language pedantics. If you understood them well enough to correct them, you understood them well enough. Anything beyond that is just a matter of arbitrary "correctness for correctness" sake.

If it's not necessary for precision and clarity when spoken it's not necessary when written.

Any two words that are pronounced the exact same should be spelled the exact same, or at least spelling them the same way shouldn't trigger a goddamn hissy fit from someone.

I look forward to all the "Oh so ur r saying that too plus to is just as easy to understand" witticisms.

Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. If hearing someone say the phonetic sound "To/too/two plus to/too/two" doesn't change why should scribbles on paper to represent those sounds have to be different for clarity or precision's sake?

Thing of the absurdity of going up to someone speaking and telling them they spelled a word wrong but a word that sound exactly the same correctly. Now think... so what changed when they wrote it down?
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Old Yesterday, 08:37 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
Can anyone think of an example where, in context, the meaning of a sentence is ambiguous if apostrophes are left out? We manage just fine in spoken English and that has no apostrophes.
All Scottish valleys are Glen's?

Dave
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Old Yesterday, 08:51 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Thing of the absurdity of going up to someone speaking and telling them they spelled a word wrong but a word that sound exactly the same correctly. Now think... so what changed when they wrote it down?
It lost intonation, emphasis, supporting behavioural clues, and context. If you think those things are irrelevant to spoken communication, then your argument is irrefutable.

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Old Yesterday, 08:53 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
No. They'll pretend they can but they can't.

That's always been my issue with language pedantics. If you understood them well enough to correct them, you understood them well enough. Anything beyond that is just a matter of arbitrary "correctness for correctness" sake.

If it's not necessary for precision and clarity when spoken it's not necessary when written.

Any two words that are pronounced the exact same should be spelled the exact same, or at least spelling them the same way shouldn't trigger a goddamn hissy fit from someone.

I look forward to all the "Oh so ur r saying that too plus to is just as easy to understand" witticisms.

Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. If hearing someone say the phonetic sound "To/too/two plus to/too/two" doesn't change why should scribbles on paper to represent those sounds have to be different for clarity or precision's sake?

Thing of the absurdity of going up to someone speaking and telling them they spelled a word wrong but a word that sound exactly the same correctly. Now think... so what changed when they wrote it down?


I fink U maek a gud r gue ment why bovver wit splling and stuf f it doesnt ad any clarity or content?
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Old Yesterday, 08:53 AM   #14
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Isn't there already a thread about this?

Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
That's a mute point.

Dave
Ugh. I had a boss who used to say that ALL THE TIME.
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Old Yesterday, 08:55 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
It lost intonation, emphasis, supporting behavioural clues, and context. If you think those things are irrelevant to spoken communication, then your argument is irrefutable.

Dave
Please explain to me the phonetic intonation, emphasis, supporting behavioral clues, and context between the spoken "its" and "it's" that aren't present in their written forms.

Real world context only, no "Let's eat Grandma / Let's eat, Grandma" absurdities.
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Old Yesterday, 08:56 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
I fink U maek a gud r gue ment why bovver wit splling and stuf f it doesnt ad any clarity or content?
Like a moth to flame.
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Old Yesterday, 08:59 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Isn't there already a thread about this?
We might have had one on For Want of a Comma $5 Million Was Lost. Or it could have been one of the other missing comma stories.
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Old Yesterday, 09:01 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
All Scottish valleys are Glen's?

Dave
Close. If Glen owns them all then you'd capitalise the name, but the geographical feature would not be capitalised. Also, there would be something that led to the remark which would offer context.
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Old Yesterday, 09:01 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Like a moth to flame.
I think you genuinely make a good point and I'm not really disagreeing with you. You still knew what I meant, didn't you? And isn't that your point? I think it looks ugly, but hat's by the by.

However, written language lacks the meta language that makes face to face or even voice to voice communication more informative than the words alone would be.

Correct spelling and grammar allows greater freedom of expression in writing to accommodate the loss of information that would be there when communication is verbal or face to face. Departure from correct usage can be used expressively to provide meaning that the words alone do not. Not adhering to the rules takes away this option.
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Old Yesterday, 09:04 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Please explain to me the phonetic intonation, emphasis, supporting behavioral clues, and context between the spoken "its" and "it's" that aren't present in their written forms.

Real world context only, no "Let's eat Grandma / Let's eat, Grandma" absurdities.
It changes when it’s written. You know this.
Or are you taking the stance that there has never been a mistaken intent or tone on the internet?

Punctuation has to replace physical cues with symbolic ones.
There are plenty of very well-spoken individuals whose writing is incomprehensible.

ETA: I happen to agree with “its v. it’s.”
I can’t think of a written context where there would be confusion.
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Old Yesterday, 09:12 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by varwoche View Post
An academic interviewed on NPR a few years back made a compelling case for why the apostrophe should be retired.

In search of a cite, when I google "apostrophe eliminate" I get Excel tips and tricks.
The main points I recall (1) the ambiguity that would be introduced isnt a big deal, and that English is loaded with greater ambiguities that we easily sort out and (2) a lot of typing is occurring on mobile devices and the apostrophe is impractical.

The "isnt" above is inadvertent. I'm on a mobile device. I'll never understand why spell check doesn't catch the times it doesn't form a word.
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Old Yesterday, 09:16 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
Close. If Glen owns them all then you'd capitalise the name, but the geographical feature would not be capitalised. Also, there would be something that led to the remark which would offer context.
There's a variant on the Kingsley Amis example: Those men over there are my husband's (i.e. those men over there owe allegiance to the man I am married to) vs. Those men over there are my husbands (i.e. I am married to all of the men over there).

But no, ambiguity due to omission of apostrophes is vanishingly rare, and I suspect their loss would be fairly insignificant. It depends whether it turns out to be the thin end of the wedge; loss of standardisation of spelling and punctuation will presumably make written language easier to use but less able to communicate precise meanings, so it's hard to say how far it should go.

Dave
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Old Yesterday, 09:17 AM   #23
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Old Yesterday, 09:18 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by varwoche View Post
The main points I recall (1) the ambiguity that would be introduced isnt a big deal, and that English is loaded with greater ambiguities that we easily sort out and (2) a lot of typing is occurring on mobile devices and the apostrophe is impractical.
My first thought in all these holy wars about minor points of punctuation...if this is such a big problem, how do we cope in spoken English?
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Old Yesterday, 09:23 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
My first thought in all these holy wars about minor points of punctuation...if this is such a big problem, how do we cope in spoken English?
A lot of the time, by phrasing, pace and intonation, which written language lacks. Punctuation is at its most useful when it replaces those aspects of speech.

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Old Yesterday, 09:25 AM   #26
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Apostrolypse, surely.
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Old Yesterday, 09:25 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
Isn't there already a thread about this?
Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
We might have had one on For Want of a Comma $5 Million Was Lost. Or it could have been one of the other missing comma stories.
I'm probably thinking of a discussion on my other forum! Which I can't find, but I KNOW I use the joke about greengrocer's recently.
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Old Yesterday, 09:27 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
That's a mute point.
it's a very pacific problem.
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Old Yesterday, 09:29 AM   #29
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It's this thread: http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=340640.
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Old Yesterday, 09:39 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
A lot of the time, by phrasing, pace and intonation, which written language lacks. Punctuation is at its most useful when it replaces those aspects of speech.
But it rarely does. Case in point: there's absolutely no difference between its and it's in spoken English.
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Old Yesterday, 10:01 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
But it rarely does. Case in point: there's absolutely no difference between its and it's in spoken English.
Its/it's is a 'pedantics only'* issue. Commas on the other hand are spoken as a pause, and in writting could be replaced with an extra space?

*Those are not apostrophes, those are ummm... semi quote marks? Shouldn't there be a different key for those ? Oh, wait, that is the key board equivalent of homophones.
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Old Yesterday, 10:07 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
Its/it's is a 'pedantics only'* issue. Commas on the other hand are spoken as a pause, and in writting could be replaced with an extra space?
Well, I tend to see it that way, but every English teacher I ever had in school didn't. For a 'pedantics only' problem, we waste thousands of hours of classroom time on it. Not coincidentally, this is why I hated 'grammar' in primary school, and was fascinated by grammar in college.

Commas do tend to convey rhythm of speech, but not reliably, and not any differently than half a dozen other punctuation marks. If there were a clear relationship between prosody and punctuation, question like "Should we use the Oxford comma?" would be easily resolved with evidence-based arguments. Instead, it's a holy war.
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Old Yesterday, 10:10 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
If there were a clear relationship between prosody and punctuation, question like "Should we use the Oxford comma?" would be easily resolved with evidence-based arguments. Instead, it's a holy war.
The Oxford comma is a strange one; it's probably the least cause of concern in punctuation, yet it's one that can actually resolve a contradiction that would normally be expressed by a pause in spoken conversation. A typical example would be, "The main influences on my life are my parents, John F. Kennedy and Hillary Clinton."

Dave
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Old Yesterday, 10:16 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Real world context only, no "Let's eat Grandma / Let's eat, Grandma" absurdities.
That one isn't an absurdity, because the comma indicates a slight pause.

"Let's eat grandma."
"Let's eat [slight pause] grandma."
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Old Yesterday, 10:25 AM   #35
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"All we're talking about is clarity and preci..."

No. Stop right there. No we aren't. That argument does not hold water. Whistle Blows, Flag on the Field, Lose 5 Yards, Repeat 2nd Down.

The grammar nitpicking that makes into public discourse is never about clarity or precision, it is always, always about adherence to an arbitrary set of rules.

And how do I know this? Because there are language "rules" that are a thousand times more confusing or... imprecising (that needs to be a word) then the linguistics colloquial uses that set the Grammar Pedants off.

In a language where the "rules" say we have to spell knife with a k, that the word "fly" means the motion of moving through the air, a small winged insect, and the front flap on a pair of trousers, and Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo is a technically valid sentence, do not talk to me about the dreaded lack of "clarity" a dropped Oxford comma, missing apostrophe, dangling participle, or preposition which is ending a sentence in causes.

Nobody in the history of all possible universes has ever looked at the checkout line at their local FoodMart, seen a sign that said "10 Items or Less" not been able to figure out what the hell that means.

Screw the "clarity" argument until the same fits are pitched over the unclear but "official" rules in our language.
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Old Yesterday, 10:35 AM   #36
mumblethrax
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
The Oxford comma is a strange one; it's probably the least cause of concern in punctuation, yet it's one that can actually resolve a contradiction that would normally be expressed by a pause in spoken conversation. A typical example would be, "The main influences on my life are my parents, John F. Kennedy and Hillary Clinton."
That's an ambiguity, not a contradiction. But the Oxford comma can just as easily introduce exactly the same ambiguity, so this is just an example of counting the hits but not the misses.

The main influences on my life are my father, John F. Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton.

In general, punctuation does not convey prosody, but things like relationships between clauses, list separators, or parentheticals. Sometimes it does nothing more than mark a contraction or over-determine case, where this is unnecessary in spoken English. Was there a change in prosody when we went from to-day to today? From table-cloth to tablecloth? I doubt it.

Meanwhile, I have no trouble conveying sadness with prosody, whereas this is more or less impossible using punctuation. This relationship is much thinner than people imagine it is. Or were told it is by their third grade grammar teacher.
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Old Yesterday, 10:36 AM   #37
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Old Yesterday, 10:38 AM   #38
Dave Rogers
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
That's an ambiguity, not a contradiction.
Yes, it is; I have no idea why, but I mixed up the words.

Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
But the Oxford comma can just as easily introduce exactly the same ambiguity, so this is just an example of counting the hits but not the misses.
I wasn't being very clear, sorry. What I meant was that the presence or absence of the Oxford comma can resolve the ambiguity, so it's actually a marginally useful piece of punctuation.

Dave
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Old Yesterday, 10:45 AM   #39
theprestige
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
"All we're talking about is clarity and preci..."

No. Stop right there. No we aren't. That argument does not hold water. Whistle Blows, Flag on the Field, Lose 5 Yards, Repeat 2nd Down.

The grammar nitpicking that makes into public discourse is never about clarity or precision, it is always, always about adherence to an arbitrary set of rules.

And how do I know this? Because there are language "rules" that are a thousand times more confusing or... imprecising (that needs to be a word) then the linguistics colloquial uses that set the Grammar Pedants off.

In a language where the "rules" say we have to spell knife with a k, that the word "fly" means the motion of moving through the air, a small winged insect, and the front flap on a pair of trousers, and Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo is a technically valid sentence, do not talk to me about the dreaded lack of "clarity" a dropped Oxford comma, missing apostrophe, dangling participle, or preposition which is ending a sentence in causes.

Nobody in the history of all possible universes has ever looked at the checkout line at their local FoodMart, seen a sign that said "10 Items or Less" not been able to figure out what the hell that means.

Screw the "clarity" argument until the same fits are pitched over the unclear but "official" rules in our language.
This is good stuff. I like how sexy you get, when you're on an anti-pedantry trip.
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Old Yesterday, 10:47 AM   #40
theprestige
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Originally Posted by mumblethrax View Post
That's an ambiguity, not a contradiction. But the Oxford comma can just as easily introduce exactly the same ambiguity, so this is just an example of counting the hits but not the misses.

The main influences on my life are my father, John F. Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton.
My father was John F. Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.

Something to do with a cloning facility, a hive mind and a time machine. Don't ask. English grammar isn't up to the task of explaining it.
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