90's or 90s?

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90's or 90s?

Postby Mavrisa » Sat May 22, 2010 12:03 am UTC

I seem to get annoyed when people use 90's rather than 90s, but I never correct anyone on it, because I don't, in fact, know if it's correct or not. Anyone care to set me straight on this?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby meatyochre » Sat May 22, 2010 12:16 am UTC

90s is correct. Apostrophes are only used to show possession or for contractions. But many people use them quasi-randomly to set things apart.

My favorite apostrophic faux-pas are the mailboxes that say "The Williams's." I always ask myself, "The Williams's what? House? Dog? Do they only own that sign?" The correct way of showing more than one Williams is Williamses.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby goofy » Sat May 22, 2010 5:44 am UTC

both are correct.
The apostrophe is sometimes used with -s to form the plural of letters, numerals, abbreviations, symbols, and words as words. […] The use of -'s to form the plurals of numerals, abbreviations and symbols is not now as common as pluralization with simple -s: 1970s, CPUs, &s are more likely to be found than their apostrophized counterparts.

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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby gmalivuk » Sat May 22, 2010 6:00 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:But many people use them quasi-randomly to set things apart.
Many people use them for pluralizing numbers, acronyms and abbreviations, and proper names that already end in s. How is that anything like random?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Goplat » Mon May 24, 2010 2:47 am UTC

Neither. It should be '90s, with the apostrophe showing where something has been left out (the first two digits), just like other English contractions.

Edit: Unless you're actually talking about the years 90 A.D. through 99 A.D., in which case 90s is correct. :)
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Mavrisa » Mon May 24, 2010 11:58 pm UTC

Goplat wrote:Neither. It should be '90s

Hah, good point.

meatyochre wrote:My favorite apostrophic faux-pas are the mailboxes that say "The Williams's." I always ask myself, "The Williams's what? House? Dog? Do they only own that sign?"

We had a debate about the possessives of names ending in 's' in English a couple of years ago (for some reason, 'Jesus' was the only example we could think of at the time :? It led to a lot of people shouting "Jesus' is stupid!" which was pretty funny...), and your example of Williams reminded me of that. Should it be Williams', or Williams's? You obviously think it's the latter, but what do others think? And how do you pronounce the result?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby goofy » Tue May 25, 2010 1:38 am UTC

it appears from the evidence that there was never a golden age in which the rules for the use of the possessive apostrophe in English were clear-cut and known, understood, and followed by most educated people.
- The Oxford Companion to the English Language
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby meatyochre » Tue May 25, 2010 3:02 am UTC

Mavrisa wrote:
Goplat wrote:Neither. It should be '90s

Hah, good point.

meatyochre wrote:My favorite apostrophic faux-pas are the mailboxes that say "The Williams's." I always ask myself, "The Williams's what? House? Dog? Do they only own that sign?"

We had a debate about the possessives of names ending in 's' in English a couple of years ago (for some reason, 'Jesus' was the only example we could think of at the time :? It led to a lot of people shouting "Jesus' is stupid!" which was pretty funny...), and your example of Williams reminded me of that. Should it be Williams', or Williams's? You obviously think it's the latter, but what do others think? And how do you pronounce the result?

It should be Williamses. No apostrophe since it's plural, not possessive.

Sorry to offend if I did, gmal. I've been bred an apostrophe purist. However, I am willing to buy that there's no historical consensus. That would certainly explain all the confusion regarding colloquial apostrophes that I've encountered over the years. My AP English teacher just drilled certain rules into my head, one of which was that you never apostrophize to pluralize, and I never thought to question her logic since it seemed to fit with a formal writing style. That kind of academic conditioning has thus far been unpossible to imlearn*!

*I'm trying to be funny :oops:

Can we at least agree that a sign advertising "10 bag's of popcorn for $1" is patently incorrect?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby masher » Tue May 25, 2010 3:13 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:
meatyochre wrote:My favorite apostrophic faux-pas are the mailboxes that say "The Williams's." I always ask myself, "The Williams's what? House? Dog? Do they only own that sign?"

It should be Williamses. No apostrophe since it's plural, not possessive.


I read that as meaning "This is the mailbox that belongs to the house in which people with the name 'Williams' reside"

Therefore, it is possessive.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue May 25, 2010 3:31 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:Sorry to offend if I did, gmal.
You weren't offensive, just wrong.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby meatyochre » Tue May 25, 2010 3:35 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
meatyochre wrote:Sorry to offend if I did, gmal.
You weren't offensive, just wrong.

Hence the "if." The implied "if not" didn't really warrant a response, unless you just wanted to be douchey for no reason.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue May 25, 2010 8:36 pm UTC

Meh, I tend to be kind of a douche to prescriptivists who make basic mistakes in their interpretations of how language is actually used.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby meatyochre » Tue May 25, 2010 9:19 pm UTC

I conceded your point, pretty gracefully, and explained why I felt the way I did. It's your right to dislike me for my habits, I guess. I just don't see why it's still a big deal.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed May 26, 2010 2:21 am UTC

Well in my defense, I'm only being partly serious and mostly just taking the piss at this point.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby meatyochre » Wed May 26, 2010 2:26 am UTC

that's cool then.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Nicad » Wed May 26, 2010 4:21 am UTC

Improper use of apostrophe's really annoys me.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby phlip » Wed May 26, 2010 4:23 am UTC

Nicad wrote:Improper u'se of apo'strophe's really annoy's me.
While no one overhear you quickly tell me not cow cow.
but how about watch phone?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed May 26, 2010 11:36 am UTC

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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby SlyReaper » Wed May 26, 2010 11:43 am UTC

Nicad wrote:Improper use of apostrophe's really annoys me.


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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby tastelikecoke » Sat May 29, 2010 2:42 pm UTC

90s are plural or not?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Sizik » Sat May 29, 2010 11:58 pm UTC

tastelikecoke wrote:90s are plural or not?


Plural. They're the years between 1990 and 1999.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Zamfir » Sun May 30, 2010 2:33 pm UTC

But about multiple 90s? Say you are writing about the similarities between the 1890s and 1990s, can you then write
" In both '90ses, there was a sense of anticipation."? or 90s's? '90's's ?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby phlip » Sun May 30, 2010 2:59 pm UTC

I believe the correct term would be "90ses, precious".

More seriously, in more formal writing I'd expect something like "decades of the '90s"... use a collective term to turn it back into a (grammatical) singular again, and then pluralise that. In the vein of "herds of cows" or whatnot.
While no one overhear you quickly tell me not cow cow.
but how about watch phone?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby RabbitWho » Thu Jun 17, 2010 3:15 pm UTC

I do'nt see anything wrong with it.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby brakos82 » Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:59 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:But about multiple 90s? Say you are writing about the similarities between the 1890s and 1990s, can you then write
" In both '90ses, there was a sense of anticipation."? or 90s's? '90's's ?


If anybody says '90ses to me I'll want to choke them. Because it sounds very annoying when the voice in my head reads posts.

And I'll usually just say 90s, mostly because the apostrophe is 9 buttons away when I'm texting on T9.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Zamfir » Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:16 pm UTC

brakos82 wrote:
Zamfir wrote:But about multiple 90s? Say you are writing about the similarities between the 1890s and 1990s, can you then write
" In both '90ses, there was a sense of anticipation."? or 90s's? '90's's ?


If anybody says '90ses to me I'll want to choke them. Because it sounds very annoying when the voice in my head reads posts.

And I'll usually just say 90s, mostly because the apostrophe is 9 buttons away when I'm texting on T9.

Buy a decent phone :)
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby brakos82 » Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:17 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
brakos82 wrote:
Zamfir wrote:But about multiple 90s? Say you are writing about the similarities between the 1890s and 1990s, can you then write
" In both '90ses, there was a sense of anticipation."? or 90s's? '90's's ?


If anybody says '90ses to me I'll want to choke them. Because it sounds very annoying when the voice in my head reads posts.

And I'll usually just say 90s, mostly because the apostrophe is 9 buttons away when I'm texting on T9.

Buy a decent phone :)


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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:39 am UTC

According to Truss, the convention of using apostrophes to pluralize decades, abbreviations, and whatnot existed in BrE well into the 80's, but today is most often encountered in AmE. It is often safest to use 90s, without the apostrophe, because then you'll get fewer emails from hypercorrective dolts who insist the apostrophe can't be used for plurals.

Zamfir wrote:But about multiple 90s? Say you are writing about the similarities between the 1890s and 1990s, can you then write
"In both '90ses, there was a sense of anticipation."? or 90s's? '90's's ?

I would probably recast the sentence to avoid those constructions altogether.

meatyochre wrote:Can we at least agree that a sign advertising "10 bag's of popcorn for $1" is patently incorrect?

Absolutely. At that price, what the hell are their profit margins? Better alert them quick before they go out of business.

Mavrisa wrote:We had a debate about the possessives of names ending in 's' in English a couple of years ago (for some reason, 'Jesus' was the only example we could think of at the time :? It led to a lot of people shouting "Jesus' is stupid!" which was pretty funny...), and your example of Williams reminded me of that. Should it be Williams', or Williams's? You obviously think it's the latter, but what do others think? And how do you pronounce the result?

Pronounce "Jesuses" and "Williamses", but style guides will disagree on the apostrophe convention. Generally, "historic" parties like Socrates and Jesus get Socrates' and Jesus', while Dr. Williams will have to suffer Williams's. But newspapers like to save on printing costs so are more likely to give everyone the s' treatment, while academic journals will splurge on the extra s. We also tend to defer to house conventions, so if you call your restaurant "James' Food Place Business" then that's how it goes.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby the-munich-man » Tue Jun 22, 2010 12:06 pm UTC

To everybody being a douche (and naming other people a douche, myself now included, oh damn.) I'm an English teacher. Hello. If Language did not evolve to suit the masses, then we would all still be talking in thees and thous. Note: no apostrophe. Why not? It's not possessive. But there's an apostrophe there. And in my sentence. Ah, well then that's a contraction, isn't it? in 100 years time, we may all be talking TXT SPK, WTH NO NN-CPITL LTTRS, ND HRDLY NE VWLS. and some things written phonetically. look at the difference between AE and BE (American and British English) Plough - British, original English. It looks nothing like it should. AE: Plow. much better, easier to spell, and to teach, I must say. How many people here say "Five items or less?" think about that one, then get back to me.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Lioness » Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:41 pm UTC

brakos82 wrote:
And I'll usually just say 90s, mostly because the apostrophe is 9 buttons away when I'm texting on T9.


I can't find the apostrophe on my phone, which saddens me greatly.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:18 pm UTC

the-munich-man wrote:in 100 years time, we may all be talking TXT SPK, WTH NO NN-CPITL LTTRS, ND HRDLY NE VWLS.
I'd be willing to bet a million dollars that will never happen.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Tue Jun 22, 2010 2:35 pm UTC

It seems English teachers, such as the-munich-man, are not required to understand formal punctuation, sentence structure, capitalization, or common grammatical sense these days. Yet they still dole out prescriptions. My my.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Bobber » Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:48 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
the-munich-man wrote:in 100 years time, we may all be talking TXT SPK, WTH NO NN-CPITL LTTRS, ND HRDLY NE VWLS.
I'd be willing to bet a million dollars that will never happen.
But then you would have to wait forever to win the bet!
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby brakos82 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 8:16 pm UTC

Bobber wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:
the-munich-man wrote:in 100 years time, we may all be talking TXT SPK, WTH NO NN-CPITL LTTRS, ND HRDLY NE VWLS.
I'd be willing to bet a million dollars that will never happen.
But then you would have to wait forever to win the bet!

And odds are we're all dead by then.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Angus » Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:06 am UTC

I can't work out how to quote things, so I'll just address this to gmalivuk. Statistically everything will happen given infinite time, so you might as well pay up now.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Promac » Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:55 pm UTC

Isn't "Williams's" a contraction of "Williamses"?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:10 pm UTC

Promac wrote:Isn't "Williams's" a contraction of "Williamses"?

Well, no. I mean, it is functionally identical in this instance, but take "Brent's clothes" and "Brentses clothes". Clearly not a contraction, you see?
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:14 pm UTC

Angus wrote:Statistically everything will happen given infinite time, so you might as well pay up now.
No. If you flip a coin an infinite number of times, it will never come up pancakes. If humanity is destroyed next year, no one will compete in the 2012 Olympics.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Promac » Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:23 pm UTC

Pez Dispens3r wrote:
Promac wrote:Isn't "Williams's" a contraction of "Williamses"?

Well, no. I mean, it is functionally identical in this instance, but take "Brent's clothes" and "Brentses clothes". Clearly not a contraction, you see?


Well, the word "contraction" simply means a shortening which, in the case of written language, is indicated by the inclusion of an apostrophe where the missing letters used to be.

In your examples, the former denotes posession, not contraction, so removing the apostrophe would not result in "Brentses", it would simply be "Brentss" but would obviously then be incorrect.
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Re: 90's or 90s?

Postby Promac » Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:28 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Angus wrote:Statistically everything will happen given infinite time, so you might as well pay up now.
No. If you flip a coin an infinite number of times, it will never come up pancakes...


Depends on the universe in which the flipping is done.

Interestingly - if you flip a coin an infinite number of times, it is possible that it will never come up tails.
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