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I’ll take two apostrophes with my chicken ‘n’ biscuits

It’s not this apostrophe that bothers Mark West. It’s another one.
It’s not this apostrophe that bothers Mark West. It’s another one. TNS

I drive down West Boulevard whenever I go to the airport. If I have an out-of-town visitor in the car, I always point out the location where the very first Bojangles’ opened up for business in 1977. The original building no longer exists, but there still is a Bojangles’ on the site.

I take some civic pride in the fact that Bojangles’ started in Charlotte, and I am pleased that Bojangles’ will continue to be based in Charlotte even though it has just been acquired by Durational Capital Management in partnership with the Jordan Company. However, the English professor in me cringes whenever I see their logo.

On the top of the yellow, oval-shaped logo it says Bojangles’ in bright red letters with a star above the j. I don’t have a problem with this part of the logo. On the bottom part of the logo it says “Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits,” and it’s this part of their logo that bothers me. Now don’t get me wrong. I think their chicken is tasty, and I like their biscuits just fine. What I don’t like is the lonely apostrophe dangling in front of the letter n. This apostrophe needs a partner, and the place for its partner is on the other side of the n.

Sometime during the 1950s, somebody associated with the music business decided that the word “and” is too long and hard to pronounce, and so the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll” was born. I don’t know the name of the person who coined this phrase, but that person knew something about the correct use of apostrophes when writing contractions. As this person understood, when one drops a letter from a word, one should replace the dropped letter (or letters) with an apostrophe. Since this mysterious person had something against both the letter a and the letter d, the person correctly replaced these letters with apostrophes.

To this day, most people still correctly punctuate the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll,” but for some reason, this proper punctuation doesn’t seem to carry over to similar phrases, especially if biscuits are somehow involved. For example, when Nabisco, which is an abbreviation for the National Biscuit Company, started marketing instant pudding based on their popular Oreo cookies, they called it “OREO Cookies ‘N Creme Instant Pudding.” I guess they thought that by using the French spelling of the word cream they would make their product sound more sophisticated, but then they made themselves appear to be ignoramuses by leaving out the second apostrophe from the contraction ‘n’.

Of course, I know that I am tiltin’ at windmills in my efforts to promote the proper use of apostrophes, and I know that y’all probably think it’s no big deal even if Bojangles’ can’t properly punctuate its own logo. However, as I see it, if we are goin’ to use contractions, we might as well do it right. Please pass the biscuits.

West is the chair of the Department of English at UNC Charlotte. Email: miwest@uncc.edu
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