April 02, 2008

Ernie Banks gets apostrophized

When the Chicago Cubs unveiled a statue of beloved player Ernie Banks outside Wrigley Field earlier this week, there were murmurs of horror among the enemies of apostrophe abuse. The granite pedestal of the statue was inscribed with Banks' famous catchphrase, "Let's play two" — a shorter version of the saying usually attributed to him: "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two!" (As the Wikipedia page on Banks helpfully explains, this is "expressing his wish to play a doubleheader every day out of his pure love for the game of baseball, especially in his self-described 'friendly confines of Wrigley Field.'") But the carvers of the statue managed to leave out the apostrophe in "Let's". Local columnists and talk radio hosts had a field day with the goof.

This morning, the missing apostrophe took its rightful place on the pedestal. Lou Cella, the sculptor who made the statue, told the Sun-Times that it took about 30 minutes for carvers to etch the added punctuation. Below are before and after photos.

(Hat tip, Alice Faber.)

[Update #1: On the American Dialect Society mailing list, Larry Horn writes: "Mr. Cella and his staff no doubt obtained their apostrophe at cut-rate from a nearby statue promoting Taco's and Burrito's."

And graphic designer Andy Pressman emails: "Comically that's still not an apostrophe — it's a foot mark!"]

[Update #2: Curtis Booth emails:

Andy Pressman, as a graphic designer, should know better. Ernie Banks's inscription was defaced with a 'typewriter apostrophe', a baleful holdover from the typewriter age and the seven-bit ASCII inventors' insensitivity to matters typographical. Pressman's 'foot sign' is what typographers call a 'prime', and it's a glyph that's distinct from the typewriter apostrophe, which should now be retired from any use whatsoever, in my opinion. The carvers of the inscription should have used a 'typographer's apostrophe'. You can see many examples of typewriter apostrophes in this email and on Language Log in general, since fake apostrophes are much more common on the web than real ones. ]

[Update #3: If only the sculptor had used the Microsoft Office contextual spellchecker...]

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at April 2, 2008 05:59 PM