Mighty Red Pen

August 26, 2009

One hump or two?

Filed under: Apostrophe catastrophe,Overseen,Perilous punctuation — mighty red pen @ 7:23 pm
Tags: ,

Today’s post is somewhat loosely based around this bonanza of a theme: camels.

1. Hat tip to Samir, who shared this little tidbit. He suggests maybe something was lost in the translation of the name of this brand of camel’s milk, Cold Hump:


Photo from the StarTribune.Com, where you can read more about Cold Hump.

2. In more camel-related news, a recent article bemoaned the state of New England apostrophes: rapidly disappearing. But in case you were wondering, apparently there’s a good reason for it:

The federal government actually discourages apostrophes in place names. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Board on Geographic Names has had such a policy for more than 100 years.

So it’s Pikes Peak — not Pike’s Peak — in Colorado, and Henrys Fork, a branch of the Snake River, in Idaho.

Evidence of the government’s policy can be seen in the old maps and other artifacts at the Saxtons River Historical Society. Louise Luring, chairwoman of the village trustees and the society’s president, joined local residents Albert Neill and Bob Wilson recently to go over old artifacts. Maps and clocks made locally in the 19th century had the apostrophe, but the punctuation mark disappears beginning in early 20th century ones.

That doesn’t mean the good folks of Vermont are going to take this lying down. Take, for example, the matter of Camel’s Hump in Vermont:

State Archivist Gregory Sanford said he had been on a one-man campaign to generate interest in restoring apostrophes to Vermont place names, without much luck.

One that bugs him is the name of a mountain whose shape is so iconic that it’s stamped on the state quarter: Camels Hump. Trouble is, leaving the apostrophe out of the first word runs the risk of making the second look like a verb, creating what Sanford called an “unfortunate” image.

Maybe they should invite Stefan Gatward to relocate to Vermont.


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