Local councils are phasing out the use of apostrophes because they are complicated, confusing (to GPS units), messy and generate too many complaints.
- In January 2009 the Daily Telegraph reports that Birmingham city council has updated their street name signs to remove apostrophes. From now on, no sign produced by Birmingham City Council will contain the punctuation mark. Debates over whether Kings Norton really should be King’s – or even Kings’ – Norton may rage on, but they will be useless. And nearby Druids Heath – which was never actually home to one, let alone many, druids – will never take on the possessive, no matter how furious local apostrophe advocates become
- In February 2009 the Yorkshire evening post reported that Wakefield council dropped apostrophies from its roadsigns.
- In March 2009 the BBC reported that Bristol City is removing apostrophes from public road signs. “Bristol City Council says the ban makes the road signs look “neater” and argues that if capitals are used then apostrophes should not be… …Roger Mortimer, from the Cotham and Redland Amenities Society, says residents are keen to keep the threatened apostrophes. “I think it is an example of just ignoring the English language. Punctuation is extremely important and the apostrophe is very valuable – it gives you a sense of place.”
The founder of the apostrophy protection society is quite upset. He mentiones that ‘this could be the first step towards linguistic anarchy’ . I wonder whether he knows about text messaging?
The colonies find this a bit amusing. 3 News (New Zealand) wittily reports that: ”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 are confusing and old-fashioned. But some purists are downright possessive about the punctuation mark.”
Imagine a Monty Python sketch with the team in suits and ties passionately discussing the value of the apostrophy in avoiding linguistic anarchy. Lots of arm and leg waving, diagrams and charts. Terry Jones demonstrating what total linguistic anarchy sounds like…. …and its impact on your sense of place… which probably involves falling over.
Meanwhile the Times reports that councils are publishing crib sheets to help their staff work-out where to put apostrophes for the rare occassions when they are allowed.