I came across the word sha'n't when reading Winnie the Pooh the other day and it cast me into a Thoughtful Mood concerning the Appropriate Spelling of this word.
This word is a contraction of "shall not", with the ll and the o removed. Where, then, do the apostrophes belong?
Here are the three options that I see:
shan't: this is consistent with other -n't words and seems to be what is typically used. But what about the ll?
sha'n't: clearly, the Best Literature uses this form. This would seem a logical form to have it in, for are there not two places where letters have been omitted?
sha'nt: based upon the prevailing wisdom of my primary school†, the first position in which letters are omitted is where the apostrophe, of which there should be only one, should go. However, it doesn't feel right in this case. Also concerning the matter of having only one apostrophe, perhaps that was intended as one per word. Or perhaps it's just nonsense, additionally considering such words as fo'c'sle.
One article I found on this matter was the Wiktionary article on sha'n't:
This came briefly into use at the end of the eighteenth century. It is not an older form of the contraction, though, as shan't predates it in print by about a century. (Source: World Wide Words )
It then proceeds to call sha'n't a "nonstandard spelling of shan't". The Wiktionary article I consider myself quite at liberty to discard, for A. A. Milne was using sha'n't in the 1920s, a decade which I would not generally consider to be at the end of the eighteenth century. In fact, it seems to me they're blatantly misquoting the article cited, which speaks of it occurring in the nineteenth century plus a few years either side of it.
So then: which are appropriate? What are the general rules concerning where the apostrophes should go in contractions? Why isn't English consistent? Why isn't Winnie the Pooh mandatory reading for all English speakers? (Discard the last two questions if you wish.)
† I am not generally inclined to give all that they say credence, naturally, for they are the same schools that teach the Victorian cursive letter forms and that two spaces should exist between sentences; that aught else is a travesty on the English language and that you probably won't get your pen license if you don't do it these ways—not that I ever did get mine.