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.