Mighty Red Pen

February 4, 2009

It’s the end of the road for apostrophes

Filed under: Apostrophe catastrophe,Perilous punctuation — mighty red pen @ 10:02 pm
Tags: ,

Hat tip to Kasey, who writes, “Don’t take your apostrophes to Birmingham, England. They will be confiscated!”

She is referring to this little tidbit, “It’s a Catastrophe for the Apostrophe in Britain: Purists Lament City’s Dropping of Punctuation Mark from Street Signs.”

It seems that Birmingham officials have been taking a hammer to grammar for years, quietly dropping apostrophes from street signs since the 1950s. Through the decades, residents have frequently launched spirited campaigns to restore the missing punctuation to signs denoting such places as “St. Pauls Square” or “Acocks Green.”

This week, the council made it official, saying it was banning the punctuation mark from signs in a bid to end the dispute once and for all.

In case you were wondering, it’s all for a perfectly good reason:

Councilor Martin Mullaney, who heads the city’s transport scrutiny committee, said he decided to act after yet another interminable debate into whether “Kings Heath,” a Birmingham suburb, should be rewritten with an apostrophe.

“I had to make a final decision on this,” he said Friday. “We keep debating apostrophes in meetings and we have other things to do.”

Okay, it’s not so whimisical as that. Mullaney stated that the apostrophes are unnecessary because they denote possessives that are “no longer accurate.” Also, apparently it confuses the GPS. But don’t worry, the sticklers have taken up the case:

But grammarians say apostrophes enrich the English language.

“They are such sweet-looking things that play a crucial role in the English language,” said Marie Clair of the Plain English Society, which campaigns for the use of simple English. “It’s always worth taking the effort to understand them, instead of ignoring them.”

Hat tips also to Helen’s Dad and Lee.

2 Comments »

  1. Ha – pipped you to the post on this one!

    http://engineroomblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/birmingham-bans-apostrophes-from-road.html

    I love that any punctuation mark can be described as ‘sweet-looking’…

    Comment by JD (The Engine Room) — February 8, 2009 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

  2. Having been a resident of both Kings Heath and Princes Risborough without ever pausing to question the non-apostrophisation of either (I’ve only just realised), is it not time that we had an English Language Czar (or Tsar?) like we have a drugs czar and a business czar?
    It would appear that our So-Called-For-Bloody-Obvious-Reasons grammar schools don’t bother with such trifles as language and grammar these days, as they expect our eleven-year-olds to be fully educated in such matters before they get there.

    Comment by Ian Collins — August 21, 2009 @ 6:59 pm | Reply


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