To the editors:
Let me get this straight: Jonathan Rosenbaum's main complaint about Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence is that the opening title reads "New York City, the 1870's" instead of "New York City, the 1870s"? ["Social Climbing," September 17].
Will someone please inform Mr. Rosenbaum that English grammar did not come to us from a mountaintop, etched on stone tablets? It changes over time. Yes, most modern arbiters of style (the AP, the University of Chicago Press) would agree with Mr. Rosenbaum that the apostrophe in "1870's" is "superfluous." However, according to Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, although markedly less common than it once was, the use of -'s to form the plurals of numerals is entirely correct. In defiance of modern convention, many grammarians (including William Safire) defend this old-fashioned usage.
Mr. Scorsese obviously used the apostrophe, not in error, but from an earnest desire to re-create the grammar of the time he was depicting.
N. Lake Shore Drive