Candlepower

Ad and marketing creatives

Score One for the Apostrophe

"Lets Go!!"

That's what appeared on the recently unveiled Old Navy SuperFan Nation college-football T-shirts. Yes, the second exclamation point is wholly unnecessary, but it's the missing apostrophe that really chaps my hide. And not just mine!

I was pleasantly surprised to see widespread mainstream media coverage of this "incident." (Andrea Chang of the Los Angeles Times helpfully explained, "Without the apostrophe, 'lets go' means to release something." "Let's" — with the apostrophe — is, of course, a contraction for "Let us.")

And I was even more pleasantly surprised that Old Navy has apologized for and recalled what a spokeswoman referred to as the "faulty" collection. If you go to the Old Navy website and click through to order one of the "Lets Go!!" shirts, an error message comes up. It reads:

SORRY! THIS TEE HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY TAKEN INTO CUSTODY. Thanks to the Grammar Police for catching it. LOOK FOR A CORRECTED TEE SOON!

I like to think Old Navy would have done the right thing even if this line of apparel weren't the product of licensing deals with (70-plus) bastions of higher learning, which made the mistake a particularly brazen boner. But I have to wonder if the retailer would have bothered with such an expensive undertaking — we're talking hundreds of thousands of shirts — if Syracuse University, which has launched an investigation into the matter, hadn't put its feet to the fire. After all, the shirts were produced, shipped to stores and offered for sale on Old Navy's website (the editor of which, it should be noted, rendered "Let's Go" correctly in the product description).

I've spent more time than I want to admit wondering if whoever approved the egregious graphic...

  1. just didn't notice the apostrophe was missing.
  2. didn't know it was supposed to be there in the first place.
  3. didn't care and would never have dreamed that not caring would cost his employer a pretty penny.
(I don't blame the designer. It would be nice if someone otherwise qualified to work in design at Old Navy knew how to wield an apostrophe. But that's ultimately no more the designer's responsibility than colorways are mine.)

As all of the above possibilities are depressing to contemplate, I'll leave the detective work to Syracuse and direct my energies to celebrating this momentous reaffirmation of proper punctuation. When rooting for my favorite college football team, I've been known to utter, "Let's go, Blue!" In this spirit, let us now say, "Let's go, Apostrophe!"


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Julia Rubiner is a partner in Editorial Emergency, a Los Angeles copy shop specializing in content manufacturing and brand communications for entertainment, lifestyle and nonprofit concerns. She is also a personal-branding consultant, writing resumes, LinkedIn summaries and executive bios, among other tools, for people in creative fields who want to advance their careers. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, she was an editor of reference publications. Rubiner wears the label "word nerd" as a badge of honor. Click here to read more articles by Julia Rubiner.

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Comments from our users:

Wednesday October 19th 2011, 5:25 AM
Comment by: John M.
Let's hear it for the Grammar Police! While they have their
very snide and vocal detractors, their function, even as their real life public servant counterparts, is to protect us. What precisely
is it that the Grammar Police protect us from? The answer to that question is they protect us from ourselves and it can be a life or death matter. English has been referred to as "the silent killer." Are you looking for a job,promotion, romance even? Your ineptitude in using the language can destroy your chances of obtaining the very things you most desire in life leaving you in the dark as to the fundamental cause of that loss. Scoff if you will at the Grammar Police but bear in mind that 600 or more people lost their lives in an air disaster years ago in the Canary Islands because of confusion in the control tower and the cockpit of an aircraft whether the phrase "on takeoff" referred to a position on the runway (taken as a preposition) or an action on the runway (taken as a verb). This can happen when the Grammar Police have a day off. Support your local Grammar Police Department. Their only function is to protect and serve you and the things you hold most dear.
Wednesday October 19th 2011, 6:47 AM
Comment by: Paul W. (Hoffman Estates, IL)
I offer a fourth alternative: excluding the apostrophe was intentional.
http://bit.ly/pzm4AW
Wednesday October 19th 2011, 10:52 AM
Comment by: Garland S.
I would imagine that the design was viewed by a number of folks (officially and in passing). My guess is that they just didn't pay attention. I doubt that this was intentional. I would imagine that if it had been intentional, they would have said so in their web site posting.
Wednesday October 19th 2011, 2:06 PM
Comment by: Jen M. (Spicewood, TX)
Possibly a mistake by the manufacturer? Perhaps the design was translated by someone overseas who didn't understand the need for that little squiggly thingy.

Also, a note to Old Navy; "Grammar Police" is insulting. My third grader would have caught the error. It's not like an apostrophe is some archaic symbol known only to sleuthing english majors.
Wednesday October 19th 2011, 3:16 PM
Comment by: mike H. (san diego, CA)
I'm not surprised with today's emphasis on texting and twittering that a useless character was omitted.

Mike
Wednesday October 19th 2011, 4:04 PM
Comment by: Geoff A. (United Kingdom)Top 10 Commenter
I've never regarded T-shirt logos as requiring academic precision, but I suppose it's different if the shirts are being bought by academic institutions.

But they could have brazened it out as an academically ironic comment on T-shirt art - are they that afraid of the so-called Grammar Police? I wish just one institution had said they would fly with it, with the presumption that no one seeing the gaffe would dare to assume that THEY would indeed make such a gaffe, and that they must have had their own sound reasons for omitting the apostrophe.

Certainly, if I saw an Oxford University T-shirt proclaiming "Lets go!!", I would assume that such an august institution had their reasons - either they were ironically conforming to the standards of this populist art form, or even that they were flying a flag for punctuation reform.

Or I might simply have laughed - not at Oxford University but at this irrepressible squiggle, which is so enjoying its status as the joker in the grammarian's deck, cheekily popping up where it's not wanted and then going AWOL when needed, driving the G-Police to distraction.
Wednesday October 19th 2011, 8:32 PM
Comment by: begum F.Top 10 Commenter
That's right!
Dropped out apostrophe was intentional in this case.
But the error on the apology message even if it was a typo, then better change the entire work force in that design business.
All of them need some language perfection course to receive their monthly/biweekly paycheck.
Trend now is for adult education, so nothing to be ashamed of.
Thursday October 20th 2011, 5:53 AM
Comment by: singer woman
United Kingdom has it in spades. Thank you.
Thursday October 20th 2011, 12:21 PM
Comment by: gary a D. (north truro, MA)
Since they charge per character in both the design and manufacture, it may have been about cost.

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