The apologetic apostrophe

Braw wee poem, stairtit a blether aboot on FB anent the ‘apologetic apostrophe’.

Why do apparent writers of Scots insert apostrophes everywhere? Are these signs of apology for omitting letters in English?

(I wrote) This older use of the apostrophe in Scots was a visual indicator to the reader that words similar to English should be pronounced the Scots way. It fell out of favour by serious writers in the 1940s who called it the ‘apologetic apostrophe’. IMO there are a couple of cases where it was quite useful though, as a neutral vowel indicator where Scots dialects vary e.g. wa’ (wall) which can be written in Scots as both waa or waw.

Others added

Ken this A’d actually be happier wi apostrophe Scots than spell awthing as ye like Scots. Leastweys it was aye spelt the same pan dialectical wey and had a clair strynd wi the SLS o the 1600s.

It does seem that until up to the middle of the 20th century folk had a pretty good understanding of how Scots should be written and definitely knew how it shouldn’t be written. The vigorous promotion of “spell awthing as ye like” over recent decades seems to have pretty much ensured that previous knowledge is now only the preserve of philologists.

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