After Clint Eastwood's RNC convention speech, President Obama tweeted as follows:

This seat's taken.

Did he break any apostrophe punctuation rules? I am guessing he didn't as I haven't heard any objections to it. I am assuming the apostrophe is used to show the omission of letters, as in “This seat is taken”. I am confused about the usage as the apostrophe can also be used to form the possessive of the noun seat, as in My seat's cushion is red.

Can the apostrophe usage change the meaning of a word based on the context of a sentence? Are there other examples for this pattern?

closed as not a real question by James Waldby - jwpat7, tchrist, coleopterist, RegDwigнt Sep 3 '12 at 8:39

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  • Your assumption is correct. :) – Zairja Sep 3 '12 at 4:02
  • @Zairja, I have updated my question with additional information. – KandadaBoggu Sep 3 '12 at 4:12
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    Expecting proper punctuation in tweets? Do you have a "Born to Lose" tatoo or something? – T.E.D. Sep 3 '12 at 6:00
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    @T.E.D. Only because the tweet originated from the official account of the president of the USA. – KandadaBoggu Sep 3 '12 at 6:53
  • In "President Obama", note 'president' is capitalized. This is also true for the phrase, "President of the USA". FYI. – Chan-Ho Suh Sep 3 '12 at 7:57

No, he did not break any rules. The 's is a contraction of the 3rd person singular of the verb to be.

  • Apostrophe can be used with seat for contraction or to denote possessiveness, i.e. This seat's taken vs This seat's color is red. Is one supposed to understand the meaning based on the context of the sentence? – KandadaBoggu Sep 3 '12 at 4:18
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    This seat's color's red -- Yes, you're supposed to understand the two different uses of apostrophe in this example from context. – Chan-Ho Suh Sep 3 '12 at 4:23
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    @KandadaBoggu: You're always supposed to understand the meaning based on the context. That's true for the vast majority of sentences, it's just sometimes so obvious you don't notice it. ("Time flies like an arrow" has something like six possible meanings from "time flies in the same manner an arrow flies" to "one should time flies the same way one times an arrow" or "one should time flies the same way an arrow times flies" and even "There's a type of flies called 'time flies' that are fond of an arrow".) – David Schwartz Sep 3 '12 at 8:06
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    @KandadaBoggu I'll add that, lacking context outside of the sentence, taken is rarely a noun and wouldn't make sense as a noun here. – Mike Sep 3 '12 at 13:56

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