The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - FIONA LOONEY Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

My am­bi­tion now is to be the last per­son on the planet to ab­bre­vi­ate the words ‘you are’ as ‘you’re’. When I even­tu­ally shuf­fle off, at a grand old age, my obituary will read: ‘The last per­son on earth to use the term “you’re” has died. Your prob­a­bly won­der­ing how old they were.’

Be­ing, as I am, a bit of a gram­mar Nazi, the whole you’re/your thing should an­noy the hell out of me. I am, af­ter all, a per­son who spends an in­or­di­nate amount of time shout­ing ‘fewer’ at the ra­dio when some hap­less spokesper­son or other says that there are ‘less jobs’ now than ex­pected. When some­body — fre­quently, wor­ry­ingly, a politi­cian — an­nounces that they are presently ex­am­in­ing a piece of leg­is­la­tion, I grind my teeth and when peo­ple spell ‘its’ as ‘it’s’ or vice versa in an email, I in­stantly lose all re­spect for them. This may well be ge­netic: The Sis­ter spends what even I re­gard as an in­or­di­nate amount of time lament­ing the mis­use of the word ‘ful­some’, and The Hus­band, re­lated by mar­riage, is on a sort of solo cru­sade to alert the world to the dif­fer­ence be­tween ‘too many’ and ‘too much’.

But fun­nily enough, spell­ing ‘you’re’ as ‘your’ doesn’t bother me too much at all. If any­thing, it fas­ci­nates me — be­cause I hon­estly be­lieve we are wit­ness­ing a word evolv­ing right in front of us. Fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, I wa­ger, will never write ‘you’re’ at all, and so, in time, ‘your wel­come’ will be­come the cor­rect us­age. Over the past year, as re­search for a play that, one of th­ese fine days, I re­ally should write, I have read a num­ber of books writ­ten in the 17th and 18th cen­turies. Most write the let­ter ‘s’ as ‘f’, and no mat­ter how many times I en­counter it, I still stum­ble over it. And al­though this was a quirk of print­ing rather than writ­ing, it char­ac­terises early lit­er­a­ture in a way, I am in­creas­ingly con­vinced, that the ab­bre­vi­a­tion ‘you’re’ will one day come to stamp 20th and early 21st-cen­tury writ­ing.

Chil­dren in fu­ture schools on Mars or wher­ever will raise a hand/ ten­ta­cle when they en­counter the term in an­cient lit­er­a­ture, and fu­ture teach­ers will ex­plain how once, peo­ple dif­fer­en­ti­ated be­tween ‘your hat’ and ‘your hot’. Then they’ll all have a huge laugh/cackle/ beep at how prof­li­gate the hu­man race once

Chil­dren in fu­ture schools on Mars will raise a hand or ten­ta­cle when they en­counter ‘you’re’ in ‘an­cient’ lit­er­a­ture

was, and they’ll re­turn to mind-read­ing the lat­est of­fer­ing from some su­per- cool fu­ture gen­er­a­tion of the Amis fam­ily.

Lan­guage evolves in a range of dif­fer­ent ways, but what makes you’re/ your most fas­ci­nat­ing is that it will prob­a­bly be­come the first word to change through text mes­sag­ing. I am less con­vinced, for ex­am­ple, that it will ever be cor­rect to spell ‘its’ as ‘it’s’ and vice versa (and isn’t it in­ter­est­ing how so many peo­ple rush to omit the apos­tro­phe in ‘you’re’ and then can’t wait to in­sert it er­ro­neously into ‘its’. No? Just me, then). Imag­ine a world in which Bon­nie Tyler is given free reign to de­clare that ‘its a heart­break, noth­ing but a heart­break’, and you’ll see just how heart­bro­ken that world would be. But the main rea­son ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ will re­main as they are, how­ever prob­lem­atic, is sim­ply be­cause they don’t tend to crop up too of­ten in text. In fact, un­less you’re ac­tu­ally tex­ting Bon­nie to quiz her on her pop­u­lar hits, then you could prob­a­bly get by with­out ever us­ing ei­ther. Peo­ple tex­ting weather up­dates, for ex­am­ple, tend to text ‘rain­ing, bring um­brella’ rather than ‘it’s rain­ing, bring um­brella’.

But ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ is an­other barrel of fish en­tirely. From ‘your grand’ to ‘your late’, to ‘what time is your train?’, we scat­ter ‘yours’ into texts and very, very few of us take the time to in­sert the apos­tro­phe at all. I pre­sume it goes with­out say­ing that I am an ex­cep­tion to this — but then, I use semi-colons in texts, and am try­ing to fig­ure out how to con­vey irony with­out re­sort­ing to typ­ing the word IRONIC in cap­i­tal let­ters. And for all that I don’t sigh too much when my chil­dren and as­sorted adults text me the wrong ‘your’, I re­serve the right to per­se­vere with the old form for as long as the auto-cor­rect will al­low me. Just like Charlton He­ston and his gun, they will have to prise my apos­tro­phe from my cold, dead hands. And when they do, I would be most grate­ful if be­tween you all, you could see your way to insert­ing it some­where ap­pro­pri­ate on my head­stone. Though not in ‘here lie’s Fiona Looney’. Dear God, any­thing but that.

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