Saturday, January 31, 2009

Punctuation Outrage

Something horrible is happening in the world of the English language. Birmingham, England's second-largest city, is banning the apostrophe from all street signs. Apparently the apostrophe has been the target of much debate at city meetings, and some dude who heads the "transport scrutiny committee" just decided to ban it because he was sick of the debate. He claims they are confusing and unneeded.


I am astonished. Are people really so ignorant? I can understand not caring about the apostrophe and not taking the time to understand it. But to ban it? Isn't there some sort of Queen's English Protection Agency? How does someone have the authority to ban a very essential punctuation mark from public use?

Perhaps we few sticklers get overly offended at the misuse of one of the most commonly misused markings. However, to misuse it is better than to not use it at all. If they continued to use the apostrophe at least the educated people of the world wouldn't feel their cause has been mortally wounded.

St. Pauls Square.

Now doesn't that just look appalling?

For the full article, click below.


Emily said...

I was typing a beautiful, poignant expose in response to your post, and halfway through, my computer decided to delete it. I will try to recreate it.

The thing I find most offensive about the bloke who banned them (and who gives him the authority to ban punctuation anyway? one single person didn't invent them and preach them; one single person shouldn't have the right to get rid of them) is this quote of his: "Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed. More importantly, they confuse people. If I want to go to a restaurant, I don't want to have an A-level (high school diploma) in English to find it."

a) they ARE needed to denote possessions.

b) who cares if the possessions are no longer accurate? they add to the charm of rich, quirky British history that the Brits appear to prize so much. i'm shocked that they of all people would want to give that up.

c) they CONFUSE people?! on the contrary, only their misuse or absence is confusing. their purpose is clear: to show ownership (or to omit letters in a contraction). they have nothing to do with singular/plural issues. how hard is that to understand? apparently so hard that ONLY A+ English students can understand it.

Although I don't know if I agree with you that to misuse it is better than to not use it at all, if the continuation of the apostrophe only serves to make the educated people of the world feel good about themselves. I think they truly are USEFUL, and that is why they should be preserved. (Obviously, to use them correctly is preferred.)

And I suppose they're not really banning them from "public use"--just from street signs for clarity/simplification/GPS ease. Apparently we must dumb things down so our technology (and citizens who don't care to use their brains) can navigate more easily. (But if we're going down that road, I have to say that apostrophes on street signs are the LEAST confusing aspect of navigating British roads.)


Let's just change/get rid of the rules so people don't break them anymore. That's a great idea.

Emily said...

Or if the issue is that they denote possessions that are no longer accurate, than let them take them away from those, but leave the ones that are still accurate for crying out loud.

Wow. Maybe I should have written about this on my own blog.

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily said...

And doesn't this dude realize that by omitting apostrophes he will be adding an "s" to everything, creating many PLURALS that are not only inaccurate now, but never were accurate to begin with?! His argument for getting rid of confusing, inaccurate possessives falls flat on its face. He's trading something that only some people find confusing for something that everyone will find much more confusing.

Sure, St. Paul doesn't own the square anymore. But the apostrophe tells us he used to, and isn't that nice to know?

But St Pauls Square (I figured I might as well take out the period too in the name of clarity) is way more confusing because now there is more than one Paul, and what have they got to do with the square anyway? Or should it be "squares"? More than one Paul=more than one square? I hate Pauls! All of them!

sadfo (my word verification). very fitting, don't you think? i'm sadfo Britain.

♥ cheri said...

People who don't know how to use correct punctuation bother me. Learn, people! They aren't confusing.

Mariel said...

That's really weird! How hard coule it be. Really sad.

Fun blog, lovely family!