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.