Apostrophe catastrophe

by DaniGirl on February 5, 2009 · 9 comments

in My inner geek, Wordplay

We’ve defended the disappearing hyphen and debated the lowly comma, but it’s been a bloody good long time since we’ve had a dust-up as much fun as the one-space or two after a period debacle.

Thanks to Kerry, though, we can now turn our attentions to the latest incidence of grammar-phobes running amok. From the Globe and Mail :

The city council of Birmingham, England, has decided to eliminate apostrophes from its street signs. Apostrophes are of course normally quite common in British place names, in constructions such as St. Paul’s Square and Acock’s Green. Apparently Birmingham has been quietly removing them from official signs since 1950, and now it faces a non-standardized mishmash of usage across the city. Citizens have often protested against the changing of historical names. After a recent dispute about punctuation in the name of the suburb of King’s Heath – now Kings Heath – the council decided to put an end to the bickering forever, and introduce a simple rule: no apostrophes anywhere. Now, even the Birmingham Children’s Hospital is the Birmingham Childrens Hospital, dashing the ambitions of that city’s schoolteachers to ever hope to teach children how to write.

Further, “In the British press, the pro-apostrophists accuse Birmingham of Philistinism and degrading the English language, while the antis accuse the grammarians of pedantry and uptightness.”

Now, much as I like a good pedantry-versus-Philistinism cage match, I’ll admit that I’m not as frothed about this debate as I have been over some of our earlier language debates. The apostrophe vexes me at the best of times. Just here in the neighbourhood, for example, we have Smiths Falls and Bells Corners with nary an apostrophe to be found. I usually find myself siding with the traditionalists in any language debate, but I find this one particularly hard to defend.

What do you think? Shall we rally the troops to join the Apostrophe Protection Society, or is the simple existence of the Apostrophe Protection Society yet another sign of the pending apocalypse?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 colleen February 5, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I say defend the apostrophe to the death.

2 Rev Dr Mom February 5, 2009 at 8:36 pm

I’m in for saving the apostrophe–when it’s used properly, of course!

3 Pamela Stewart February 5, 2009 at 9:05 pm

I am a massive traditionalist when it comes to language, and become somewhat sad when I hear poor english. You know what I’m saying, like the phrase “Alls I know”….

so…save the proper apostrophes and all other proper punctuation!

4 Windex February 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Save it!

5 Fawn February 6, 2009 at 12:56 am

“a good pedantry-versus-Philistinism cage match” Bwa-hahahahahhaha!

I don’t have a problem with something like Smiths Falls or Kings Heath — it could happen. But “Childrens Hospital”? ARGH!

6 smothermother February 6, 2009 at 7:40 am

Grammar, not my thing. But it would seem that the apostrophes are sort of essential, no?

I wasn’t blog aware when you wrote the post on the comma. But if anyone wants to get a laugh while listening to some really good music, check our Vampire Weekend’s (or is it Weekends) song “Who Gives a F#$% About the Oxford Comma.” It’s a great song.

7 suze February 6, 2009 at 9:49 am

Don’t forget the biggest controversy an apostrophe removal caused over here: When Timmies went from Tim Horton’s to Tim Hortons…

I’m not really fussed one way or another, but it irks me to no end when someone uses it wrong – Like my cousin who puts her return address always as The Lastname’s instead of The Lastnames, as if they are the possessive of someone rather than a pluralization…

8 David February 6, 2009 at 12:10 pm

And there’s no ‘falls’ nor ‘bells’ either

9 liz February 6, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Apostrophe forever!!!

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