Posted by: suekenney | August 23, 2011

Fresh Bean’s!

Lewis (left; Kevin Whately) and Detective Serg...

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One of my little vices is watching crime shows.  Not all of them: there are several that just don’t float my boat, to borrow a phrase.  One of those I’ve seen a few times and liked is “Inspector Lewis,” a British show spun off from the “Inspector Morse” series (which I’ve tried to watch, and I just don’t care for it). 

Inspector Robby Lewis is middle-aged, beginning to look at possible retirement, and still grieving for his wife, killed a few years back by a drunk driver.  His assistant is Detective Sergeant James Hathaway, a handsome young fellow who had once studied for the priesthood but changed to crime investigation for reasons unsaid.  (At least, in the few episodes I’ve watched, nobody has said.)

As with many effective partnerships, there are a lot of personality differences and a certain amount of tension that spurs them both on.  Lewis is not exactly an anti-intellectual, but he’s no master’s candidate either.  Hathaway is much the opposite, with a tendency to throw in random quotes from Shakespeare or Dante or some medieval theologian. 

So what does all this have to do with the “Fresh Bean’s” of my title?  I watched the episode “Wild Justice” just today, and was highly amused by a brief vignette in the middle of their murder investigation.  They had come to a farm which sold produce of various kinds, and had signs so proclaiming at the entrance to the farm:  “Fresh Bean’s!”  “Tomato’s!”

Lewis looks over at Hathaway, who is maintaining a straight face, and says, “I can hear you tut-tutting, even if you aren’t saying anything.”  Hathaway replies, perfectly well aware of what his boss is talking about, “I really hate misplaced apostrophes.”  (Please excuse if I didn’t quote exactly.)

See, most plurals are NOT, repeat NOT, made by adding an apostrophe and an s.  Just the s, thank you, or sometimes es.  Of course there are some irregular nouns that do bizarre things – but NONE of them use that apostrophe to make the plural.

When I taught English grammar, this was probably one of the toughest things for my students to learn, and one of the hardest to teach so they could get it.   The apostrophe is primarily to show possession – the dog’s bone, the boy’s room – or to show that a letter or two have been dropped out – couldn’t, I’m, can’t.  The ONLY times the apostrophe is used to indicate a plural are when you are showing the plural of an individual letter – A’s, b’s, r’s – or a lowercase abbreviation – rpm’s, abc’s – or words that are talked about as terms – How many like’s did he use in his speech?  Don’t give me the why’s and the wherefore’s.

So the word “bean’s” that Lewis and Hathaway saw on the sign should have been “beans.”  Otherwise, the farmer was talking about something that belonged to one poor, lonely, little bean.   That farmer needed some more education on proper punctuation – but it surely made a cute little sidenote in the midst of the murder investigation!

For another, more thorough take on the topic of apostrophes, please see the related article by Erica Mills – good stuff! 


  1. […] Fresh Bean’s! ( […]

  2. […] words…I did address it briefly in a previous post of mine back in August of last year – – but it’s a topic that could use more […]

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