The perils of connecting “Rock” to “Roll”

  1. “Rock n’ Roll”
  2. “Rock ‘n Roll”
  3. “Rock ‘n’ Roll”

Oxford New American gives its blessing to #3, but Oh Sherrie, err, oh man, do I see #1 and #2 used with reckless abandon everywhere and anywhere. We can probably agree that “rock ? roll” is all about reckless abandon so there’s no reason to get excited about the ambiguity.

As a replacer of letters, the apostrophe dates back to the 1500s (1500’s?) per the ONA. Since then it has been our magic bullet when we want to make stodgy words dance like colloquialisms.

In Eats, Shoots & Leaves Madame Lynne Truss draws the distinction between the way the apostrophe simply “indicates the omission of letters” and the way it “indicates strange non-standard English.”

So which is “Rock ‘n’ Roll”?  For that matter, which is “Pork ‘n’ Beans“?  An expedient omission or a piece of vernacular? Should we take the Oxfordians at their 24-carat word, or reinterpret the proper use every ten years like a true rock star?

 

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