« Dreamland | Main | Screens »

Eric Shackle Writes: End Of The Apostraphe?

"Is the apostrophe about to become an extinct punctuation mark?'' asks Eric Shackle.

Is the apostrophe about to become an extinct punctuation mark? It’s certainly on the way out. In England, Barclays Bank, Diners Club and Mothers Pride bread have already got rid of it.

In Australia, George Richards, a former editor of the Sydney Morning Herald’s trivia feature Column8, for years fought the misuse of apostrophes through a fictitious nit-picking character he called Apostrophe Man.

In a classic case of Life copying Art, a retired copy editor and reporter in the English town of Boston, Lincolnshire, had formed an Apostrophe Protection Society. His name was John Richards. I don’t think he was related to George Richards.
Aided by his son Stephen, the only other foundation member of the APS, John started sending a form letter to the English Boston’s numerous apostrophe offenders.

“Dear Sir or Madam”, he wrote politely, “because there seems to be some doubt about the use of the apostrophe, we are taking the liberty of drawing your attention to an incorrect use... We would like to emphasise that we do not intend any criticism but are just reminding you of correct usage should you wish to put right the mistake.'’

London's Daily Telegraph ran a story by Peter Foster about the APS under the headline Greengrocer's grammar sends a purist bananas. It told how Mr Richards, 75, delivered a polite letter on headed Apostrophe Protection Society notepaper through the door of anyone in Boston he found breaking the rules.

As a result, John received more than 500 letters of support, as well as several monetary contributions to his cause. Next day the Telegraph published a letter from Derek Snoxall, of West Sussex, who wrote: "I applaud the foundation of the Apostrophe Protection Society. This is long overdue and tush to those who say otherwise. I suggest that the misuse of commas be attended to at the same time. On a recent visit to Australia I read in a pub lavatory a notice asking people to refrain from putting, amongst other things, 'babies, nappies down the toilet'."

The New York Times picked up the story, publishing an item headed Boston Journal: Minder of Misplaced Apostrophes Scolds a Town. Sarah Lyall wrote: "The campaign has had limited success so far, with only one establishment (the local library, which expunged the errant apostrophe from its 'CD's' sign) actually taking remedial measures. In general, Boston business owners do not share Mr. Richards's passion for punctuation. 'Sounds to me like this man wants a bleeding job,' [said] Reginald Dunmore, a local butcher whose van advertising 'carvery's' earned him a letter from Mr. Richards."

Eighteen years ago, economic consultant Ian Senior, who lived in Kings Langley, led a campaign for the restoration of an apostrophe to his village's name. Villagers voted 80 to eight in favour, but the local council vetoed the move. "They initially said they would have to change all the stationery," Mr. Senior told an interviewer. "I said, 'Let the current lot run out and print new paper,' and then they said, 'What about the road signs?'"

Boston ( population 35,000) is the small Lincolnshire seaport town from which a small band of Puritans, later known as the Pilgrim Fathers, set off via Plymouth on the 180-ton sailing ship Mayflower. After a stormy voyage across the Atlantic, the ship reached North America at Cape Cod, and the little group landed on Plymouth Rock to found the first English settlement in New England. The Pilgrims' leaders drafted and signed the Mayflower Compact, which provided for democratic government, and gave the name of their hometown to the present US city of Boston (population 626,000).

See Should he Apostrophe e Abolished?: http://grammar.about.com/od/punctuationandmechanics/a/Should-The-Apostrophe-Be-Abolished.htm

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc2aSz9Ficwideo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vc2aSz9Ficw

Apostrophe Protection Society: http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.