KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
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.