2/7/09

Apostrophe Catastrophe

While flipping through the Scroll, I saw an article with the headline "Apostrophe Catastrophe." I'd just taught about possessive nouns to my third graders, and I thought I might be able to share it with them. (Besides, I can't resist hearing about mistakes in published writing.) The article said Birmingham, London officials recently banned apostrophes from all street signs because they're "confusing and old-fashioned." Of course there are two sides to every battle, but the people they chose to represent each side made me gag. Maybe it's just the debate that makes me gag.

Side A:
Remove those comma things.

"Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed," Mullaney said. "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."

Side B: But 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."

Now, if I had to defend apostrophe usage against people who complain of having to have a high school diploma to find their way to McDonald's, I would not choose "they are such sweet-looking things" as my main argument.

4 comments:

Britt said...

What would you choose as your argument?

Shani said...

Oh wow. Sad thing is, the people who don't want to think above an elementary school level will probably win.

E. Anona said...

Ha--I read this too. Now the real question is, will we all give up paper books in favor of the Kindle?

I went to several thrift stores today and bought 4 books for $1.50. I feel very guilty about it because the clerk asked if I had a student I.D. and I pulled out my BYU one before I realized it was to get a half-off discount. I'm not a student anymore, I just carry a lot of random things in my wallet. Then it was too embarrassing to go back and explain...although I grew up reading those stories in the Friend about how if you find a dollar in the grocery store parking lot you should go turn it in, so not going back is denying my christian upbringing. What to do?

Chan said...

I remember this part in the Screwtape Letters where the uncle explains how he gets people to be inconveniently pious. I think he gave the example of a woman who refuses tea or a biscuit or something on the grounds that she doesn't want to inconvenience the guests or she wants her child to be able to have plenty. But the thing is, the host has a bunch of food and it's on a plate in front of everybody, so it's really just awkward that the lady is refusing the biscuit.

I heard a story about a deputy sheriff who was so honest (according to the man telling the story) that one time he went over the speed limit on accident or something like that and gave himself a speeding ticket.

I think the Kindle will replace not just books, but also interpersonal relationships and carbonated beverages.