I yield to no-one in my respect for the English language.
In fact, I would go so far as to opine that the proper use of grammar is the fundamental basis of a civilised society. Like Lynne Truss I have a particular sensitivity to the correct use of apostrophes. That's because it usually only requires a little effort to understand how and where they should be applied. Bee's knees, for example when there's only one bee. Bees' knees when there's a swarm.
If I ever have a problem, a few repetitions of the word or phrase usually clearly signposts where the apostrophe should go. Yesterday, however, in this blog, I found myself in some difficulty with the phrase "For fuck's sakes". I tried a number of variations but none of them looked right. Indeed, I've been turning the phrase over and over in my head ever since. A number of people have commented on how preoccupied I looked.
At first I thought the problem was simply a grammatical one. If I slipped the phrase into a sentence the answer should be obvious. "For fucks' sake, stop picking your nose," for example, doesn't look too bad. Unfortunately, "For fuck sakes, put it away," looks equally correct. Or incorrect for that matter. In the end I decided it wasn't a problem of simple hermeneutics or syntax.
For a start I think the etymology of the phrase may come into this. I have a feeling, for example, that Americans usually say "For fuck sake, gimme the money" thus rendering redundant the need for an apostrophe altogether. Here in the North of Scotland, "For fucks sakes, gonna no dae that" is considered more acceptable usage. In this latter instance I have no idea where, if anywhere, the apostrophe should go.
In the end I suspect this is more of a problem of symantics rather than syntax. We need to work out the real meaning of the phrase, where it came from and how it developed, before we can correctly insert the apostrophe.
So, if there are any grammarians, or experts in syntax, synchronic linguistics, morphology, dialect or semantics out there who can help me with this most delicate problem I would really appreciate your help.
I simply can't risk embarrassing myself or my readers by employing faulty grammar any longer.