At first I just thought I was going insane. (And it's always important, at such moments, to take stock and really have a good long think before proceeding.) Turns out I wasn't though - rather, The New York Times, that great bastion of Western journalism, just can't punctuate their own articles.
For perhaps the third time in the last couple of weeks or so, I've come across an article with a reference to a decade (like this example - "First came an economic opening in the 1980's under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet") which has an apostrophe incorrectly added to the unfortunate word, as if somehow "the 1980" was in ownership of something called the "under the dictatorship...". Which, clearly, doesn't make sense.
It's not like the world's going to fall apart at the seams at this news, and I'm sure I make plenty of errors here, but come on, it's the New York-bloody-Times!
Strunk & White must be turning in their respective graves, and I can only imagine what Lynn Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves and all round punctuation Nazi, would make of it all. And if you're struggling yourself, there's a good rundown of some of the hard and fast rules here, incidentally entitled "The apostrophe is the modern day Shibboleth" (cute).
This New York Times thing is no isolated incident. Are the proofreaders purposefully passing this over, under some misguided assumption that they can re(n)educate the world to the wicked ways of the extra apostrophe?
Or do they simply just not realise that they've totally buggered it up? Maybe this is a question I should be asking of the Times themselves... Watch this space.