@ J (Posted Thursday 13th November 2008 23:09 GMT)
As a fellow EASLer I have to agree on the shift in attention which happens when you learn the English language less and less, and apply it more and more in your daily routine.
When I studied it, and then taught it to others, I lived the grammatical rules almost sub-conciously. The experience of gaining a new skill was still fresh, the implementation was fun, and the repetition an instant gratification for the hard worker, i.e. me. Yes, I _am_ as selfish as that.
Diplomas and certificates aside, one cannot work as a teacher all his long life. So I moved on from academia to a daily use of English under conditions of professional work in a knowledge field not directly related to linguistics. Where a language is not an end in itself, neither its study, nor its honing.
Dear J, that is where the pesky uncertainities started to creep in. The flow of thinking already well advanced, the need of expression and explaination of the current step imminent, the attention span stretched to comprise the whole process--not a mere moment of it--here is why occasionally the weight of a particular reasoning step dwindles, the speaker/writer jumps to the "more important" conclusions, neglecting the proper language in the course of events.
It is alwas "just for now", but it alwas repeats itself ad nauseam.
This is how I caught myself making mistakes Britishers do--and correcting them the very way they do (we do). The answer is more study, not abolishments of letters. Never mind the loony prof and his whacky suggestion; apostrophes are part of our language, they are here to be used by those inclined to write in order to be understood.
When I see a strange use of them IRL I just go to the patron, explain, and leave... not without a frequent smile, praise, or occasional gift. Yes, there is such thing as a free meal! At least if you are ready to talk in person to the guys in charge of the premisses where the apostrophes (or English grammar, generally) suffer neglect and misuse, e.g. small restaurants in Italy, France or those little Swiss resorts, greengrocer's shops in Spain, wurstchenbude in Germany, aso.
You won't believe how many nice encounters and small friendships ensued in the course of my little quest for clean language. Speaking to real users of everyday English is more fun to boot, much more than academic lecturing given to a bunch of silly yoofs. Travelling in Europe needn't be boring exercise devoid of fine language - and humour.
To Reg readers and J the commenter:
Thumbs up 'cause we both use English as a means of communication. That's what it's for.