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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Apostrophe & The Pedants' Revolt

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Gannon, Jan 30, 2009.

    For defenders of the apostrophe, who are more used to fighting minor skirmishes against greengrocers and butchers, it amounts to a major defeat: the day they lost Birmingham.

    After a tense grammatical debate Birmingham City Council has decreed that possessive apostrophes shall no longer appear on its street signs.

    No ceremony marked this expulsion from the municipality, only a statement from Martin Mullaney, chairman of the council’s transportation scrutiny committee. He noted that for some time the apostrophe had been slipping from signs all over the city.

    Mr Mullaney argued that since the monarchy no longer owned Kings Heath, or Kings Norton, and since the Acock family no longer owned Acocks Green, the punctuation marks that once appeared in those names were now redundant. Defenders of the apostrophe in Birmingham responded with angry question marks. Much like the names on their street signs, some residents appeared to be possessive. They demanded the return of their apostrophes.

    Mr Mullaney, however, stood firm: “The consensus of the city council on the future use of possessive apostrophes in place names is that they should not be reintroduced,” he wrote, in a grammatically correct entry on his blog. He added: “This view will, I know, upset a lot of residents.”

    Mr Mullaney had raised the issue with residents at the beginning of this year. The transportation department was about to erect signs directing people to Kings Heath, and wanted to know whether there ought to be an apostrophe. On a community website, commentators argued that an apostrophe was required. “It’s important because it conveys the meaning of the Heath more accurately as belonging to the King — whether this be real or symbolic — in singular possessive terms,” wrote one, adding that it was a discussion that had occupied some residents’ groups “for some time”.

    For their part, the Plain English Society and the Plain Language Commission both said there was no rule in Britain with regard to possessive apostrophes in place names.

    The US dropped such punctuation in 1890 when the US Board of Geographic Names removed the apostrophe from its database. Only five exceptions have ever been made, including Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1933. Australia followed suit in 2001 for the sake of consistency in the databases used by the emergency services, said Mr Mullaney. “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

    Above all, there was the cost of reintroducing the marks. If the council gave one road an apostrophe, residents on countless others would want one. “The cost would be astronomical,” he said.

    The once punctuated suburbs of Kings Heath and Acocks Green were quiet last night: residents appeared to have come to terms with their loss.

    On Wheelers Lane, Kings Heath, where the street sign’s apostrophe has been painted over, Jean Read, 71, a retired dinner lady, said: “I can’t even remember having one.”

    There was anger, however, at the headquarters of the Apostrophe Protection Society in Lincolnshire. John Richards, the society’s founder and chairman, said: “It’s setting a very bad example because teachers all over Birmingham are teaching their children punctuation. Then they see road signs with apostrophes removed.”

    From: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5614962.ece

    Related article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/mick_hume/article4709620.ece

    Onsite link, to which I now concede the point raised about James' vs. James's!: http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=6265&highlight=apostrophe
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I think I'm going to cry... Not that I expected good grammar from the brummies, but that's not the point really.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Come the Revolution! Hordes of masked vigilantes with white paint pots and scripting brushes!
     
  4. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it wrong that I actually laughed out loud at this? I mean, I held it in for the first half of the article, but there's only so much one man can take.

    Over here, we just name streets after people, rather than trying to give them to people. :rolleyes:
     
  5. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    Lol - what he said... only in my voice. (It would probably have helped if I'd posted in the "talk about your accent" thread, but...meh).
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yet another blow to the camp of proscription.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmmm...I think I'll have printed some apostrophe stickers for sale to the UK apostrophe rebels. They can add them to the signs late at night...as many times as necessary...forcing the government to spend time (money) removing them. I'll call it guerilla sticker-fare...uh oh, does that make me a covert weapons dealer? Over history, we have learned that such protracted pressure will eventually wear down the officials and they will concede.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    This sort of reminds me of the old Toronto debate of calling it The Beaches or The Beach.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well, having seen far too many examples of the "greengrocers' apostrophe" (below), I can certainly sympathise with those who want the apostrophhes inserted where they do belong.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I cringe every single time I see a plural that is not posessive with an apostrophe.
     
  11. bobvinvent
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    bobvinvent Member

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    I like apostrophes. Only idiots say they can manage without them. Dumbing down of the most illiterate kind.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    so much for the sanctity of 'the king's english'!... or should i say, 'the kings english'!?
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Touche, Maia! :)
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    don't know why this duped...
     
  15. othman
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    othman Member

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    What I don't understand is that if they're saying that it's partially to help the emergency services then surely they could just have the databases void of apostrophes but have the street signs with ... surely everyone would be happy?

    Except those morons who can't use apostrophes, meh.
     
  16. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    Brits retire the apostrophe?

    English is often regarded as the most difficult of the Romance Germanic languages, but it's not that hard.

    Its a catastrophe for the apostrophe in Britain!

    Note the author left out the apostrophe in "its." To be completely honest, I cant help but wonder if she left it out on purpose...

    Birmmingham, England's second largest city, has decided to do away with the apostrophe! Citizens believe that they should be able to figure out the meaning of a sentence without having an A-Level and claim that the apostrophe is outdated, "old-fashioned."

    I'm perplexed; the elimination of the apostrophe is going to be much more confusing than it is with it...

    As we're all writers, I want to know what you have to say about this, and I especially want to hear from the Brits here; I know there's a few of you. How is it going to affect your writing, if at all? I'm certainly not going to let it die in my writing (though I'm American, anyway).

    As a proud member of the Grammar Squad, I cant decide whether I should start laughing or start crying; all the same, I'm definitely perturbed.
     
  17. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    English isn't a romance language, it's a germanic language.

    Haha. But seriously, I don't think it is that much of a big deal, I mean, they're just street signs, aren't they?

    EDIT: Didn't Wrey post a thread about this a few days ago?
     
  18. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's the result of laziness and ignorance and the development of the text generation. People these days can't use apostrophes properly because they simply never learned through reading enough and becoming educated, then the recent development of text-speak as an acceptable offshoot of the English language exacerbated the problem.

    Frankly, I think that it's a disgrace that the standard of grammar used by people has degenerated so far as to have to 'retire' the apostrophe. But then, it's an indictment of a society that's become lazy in its use of language. I'm furious about this development (seriously, I am), and think that every educated user of the English language, no matter where they're from, should respond to this with a deluge of apostrophes.
     
  19. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought that German was also a romance language, but perhaps I'm wrong. I dont know too much about the origin of languages to say with any certainty, but I believe that they're both romance? :confused: I'm going to look into it now; my interest is piqued! :)
    Edit: You're right; English is Western Germanic language. I was always told that it was a romance language; that languages such as Spanish, English, German, and Italian all originated from Latin, which is why they share cognates. Hmm!

    Not that I know of. I looked through the titles of his recently started threads just now, and the last grammar / punctuation related topic he started was about the letter W: Consonant or Double Agent Vowel. :)
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There was already a thread on this, so I merged in the new posts.
     
  21. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    Whoops. :redface: My apologies; I didnt see Gannon's original thread. ...Well, no harm in ressurecting the subject.
     
  22. othman
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    othman Member

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    That's a collection of Mercurial's long words in a single post... I can't wait until the Birmingham dictionary comes out... Wha? Innit? Woop?

    A new age has attacked writing; stupidity. Well guys, back to the picturebooks we go!
     
  23. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm all for dropping it from the street signs, but dropping it from the English language is dumb.
    I've never seen a language get rid of a punctuation mark because idiots can't use it right.
     
  24. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    If they're flip books, I might be okay with that... ewww, nevermind. I just realized how much it would suck to be a writer in the flip book Age. :(
     

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