In her book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, grammar-enthusiast Lynne Truss explains the eight acceptable uses for apostrophes, one of which is the use of apostrophes to signal omitted words (47-48). Eight uses total. That is, unless you frequent the St. Miguel Townhouses common room where you’ll find a ninth use for an apostrophe, though I’m still not sure what that use is. On a sign posted above a circle of chairs and sofas is written, “tha’ nook.”
Huh? I understand the sentiment that this is a relaxed atmosphere, so the sign is supposed to be informal. The person who posted the sign probably wanted the apostrophe to make the sign show that relaxation. As if the people who hang out here are too busy being awesome to fully say words. Okay, I get it. But what are you shortening? “The” is a 3 letter word. Adding an apostrophe to the phonetically spelled word makes it longer. And a little confusing. Are we shortening “that”? I doubt it. There’s one nook in the room; it hardly seems like someone would get it confused with another.
I fully believe that language can be stretched, bended, and molded to fit a particular audience or convey a particular message. In the dialogues of Huck Finn, Mark Twain used vernacular English that chopped words to pieces, frequently used slang words, and paid little attention to grammar. Twain’s purpose was to authentically portray his uneducated characters and enrich the experience for the reader. Though even with the liberties that he took, Twain still followed the proscribed ways of shortening a word, for example, using apostrophes to indicate missing letters. Twain stretched, bended, and molded standard English into his dialogue because it helped his reader better understand his characters and their circumstances.
The sign in the St. Miguel Townhouses doesn’t do that. I admire the intentions, but if the purpose of language is to communicate, then don’t get so mixed up in trying to sound cool that you lose what you’re trying to say.