Tuesday, February 10, 2009

K-12 Topic: That @#$%^&* Apostrophe

10-second review: Seems a certain place in England is banning the apostrophe.

Title: “Apostrophes Reach the End of the Road.” Meera Selva. Philadelphia Inquirer. January 31, 2009, p. A3.

By Meera Selva

LONDON - On the streets of Birmingham, the queen's English is now the queens English.
England's second-largest city has decided to drop apostrophes from all its street signs, saying they're confusing and old-fash­ioned. But some purists are downright possessive about the punctuation mark.

It seems 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.

Councilor Martin Mul-laney, 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 yester­day. "We keep debating apos­trophes in meetings, and we have other things to do."

Mullaney hopes to stop public campaigns to re­store the apostrophe that would tell passersby that "Kings Heath" was once owned by the monarchy.

"Apostrophes denote pos­sessions that are no longer accurate, and are not need-ed/' he said. "More impor­tantly, they confuse people."

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."

Mullaney contended that apostrophes confuse GPS units, including those used by emergency services.

Jenny Hodge, a spokes­woman for the satellite nav­igation equipment maker TomTom, said most users of their systems navigate through Britain's some­times-confusing streets by entering a postal code rath­er than a street address.

If someone preferred to use a street name — with or without an apostrophe ~ punctuation wouldn't be an issue, she said. By the time the first few letters of the street were entered, a list of matching choices would pop up and the user would pick the destination.

No national body is respon­sible for regulating place names in Britain. Its main mapping agency, Ordnance Survey, which provides data for emergency services, takes its information from lo­cal governments, and each one is free to decide how it uses punctuation.

To sticklers, a missing or misplaced apostrophe can be a major offense. British grammarians have railed for decades against store signs advertising the sale of "apple's and pear's," or pubs offering "chip's and pea's."

In her best-selling book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss recorded her fury at the title of the Hugh Grant-Sandra Bullock com­edy Two Weeks Notice, in­sisting it should be Two Weeks' Notice.

"Those spineless types who talk about abolishing the apostrophe are missing the point," she said, "and the pun is very much in­tended."

Comment: I am for abolishing the apostrophe! Then I won’t have to mark those “its”/ “it’s” mistakes. Rays.

No comments:

Post a Comment