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Today's Word



Dec 15, 2014
This week's theme
Terms with apostrophes

This week's words
dog's chance
gentleman's agreement
cat's cradle
who's who
lion's share

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There's this road sign that has been on my street corner for a while.

Please drive carefully for our childrens sake

While driving, I like myself to be punctual, my tires unpunctured, and my signs punctuated. One day I couldn't hold back any longer and called the transportation department.

Me: I'm calling about a missing apostrophe. Whom can I talk with?
Transportation: Huh?
Me: Don't you have a manager of punctuation, or something?
Transportation: Not sure what you're talking about.
Me: Well, if you're short on apostrophes, I know of some greengrocers who might be able to help.

Someone there must be punctilious. To my surprise, a few months later they replaced all such signs in the neighborhood (and elsewhere, I presume).

Please drive carefully for our childrens sake
Welcome to the grammatically-correct
(and speedier) neighborhood.

All except the one on my street corner. I'd like to think that it's because they had run short of these squiggly things again, just one short. Maybe even greengrocers are out of them. Perhaps this guy can spare one.

While that guy may be unsure about the use of the apostrophe, you can be sure that each of the terms featured in A.Word.A.Day takes an apostrophe, either indicating a possessive or a contraction.

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dog's chance

(DOGZ chans)

noun: A poor chance.

In modern times dogs may be pampered, but historically a dog's life wasn't much to bark about. Hence a dog's chance is a small chance. Earliest documented use: 1890.

"When election day rolls around, Otto trounces his running mates, who don't have a dog's chance."
Jennifer M. Brabander; Otto Runs for President; The Horn Book Magazine (Boston); Jul/Aug 2008.

I believe that life can go on forever. It takes a million years to evolve a new species, ten million for a new genus, one hundred million for a class, a billion for a phylum -- and that's usually as far as your imagination goes. In a billion years, it seems, intelligent life might be as different from humans as humans are from insects. But what would happen in another ten billion years? It's utterly impossible to conceive of ourselves changing as drastically as that, over and over again. All you can say is, on that kind of time scale the material form that life would take is completely open. To change from a human being to a cloud may seem a big order, but it's the kind of change you'd expect over billions of years. -Freeman Dyson, physicist (b. 1923)

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