Friday, August 05, 2011

Grammar Hammer: It's vs. Its (with Alaskan evidence!)

In May I went to Alaska with my writing partner and best buddy, Elena Solodow. Many of you have watched the movie that highlights our escapades into the great, icy yonder.

We saw a number of glaciers while there, the most impressive being Child's Glacier in Chugach National Forest, Cordova, AK. Here's a picture of the glacier. It's roughly 500 feet away from little Elena, who's also taking a picture of the ice wall. (Click on any picture to embiggen.)

There was this lovely shelter welcoming us to the campground near the glacier. Inside were panels with information about how glaciers are formed, how old Child's Glacier really is, and how to avoid bear attacks.

It was entertaining. No, we didn't see any bears. We saw traces of bear (IE: bear poop, which nature-people call scat, but is really just bear turds), but no bears. This is a bad thing because I really wanted to see a wild bear, but also a good thing because I didn't want to get eaten alive.

What I did see was this:

And upon seeing said panel, I motioned to Elena and asked, "What's wrong with this picture?"

Now, I may be a bit anal retentive about grammar and the ongoing butchery of the English language. But I expect a place maintained by my government to have the courtesy of proper grammar. I don't know why I have these expectations given Uncle Sam's track record, but I do. Call me naive.

Don't see the problem?

Its is possessive. It's is a contraction for "it is." Therefore, this would read, "A snowflake falls high in the mountains. It is whisper is lost among others, compressed and squeezed into ice in one to three years."

Let me repeat that: It is whisper is lost...

Fail, national forestry, fail.
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