I discovered a new phenomenon this week–the apostrofly:
“…the discovery of the apostrofly, first recorded in this column in the Guardian on September 30 2002. The apostrofly, as I noted at the time, is an insect which lands at random on the printed page depositing an apostrophe wherever it alights.”
Mayes coined this word to describe how apostrophes are used sometimes at random, or where not expected.
He’s making a reference to fly specks, which are basically a little blop of fly poop. (Insect poop is properly called Frass, if you want to be pedantic about that sort of thing.)
Those of us with Cluster Flies know what fly specks are, since in addition to annoyingly banging on the windows in spring and fall, the flies poop all over too.
Unfortunately, plain water isn’t enough to clean it off–usually it takes serious scrubbing to get the spots off. It’s more fun if you mutter “Out Damned Spot! Out, I say!” as you do that, BTW.
I hadn’t considered it before, but fly specks can be an issue in painting restoration, as well. That was the most common mention of fly specks when I was searching for an image!
Alas, we cannot blame the humble fly for the rampant misuse of quotation marks. And some apostroflies are clearly not the work of flies. In some cases, the apostrofly has gone missing–fly constipation, perhaps?