Its time. Sorry, it’s time to save the apostrophe
It’s tiny but powerful.
Its incorrect insertion could mean the difference between life and death.
And it’s fighting for its very existence.
I’m referring to the apostrophe; specifically, the possessive apostrophe.
Even its proper name – saxon genitive – sounds more like a sexually transmitted disease than the pinnacle of punctuation.
Philistines and purists are waging war on the web, about whether this much-maligned mark should be banned.
One council in the U-K has erased the little fellas from signs referring to areas such as Kings Norton, Druids Heath and St Pauls Square because staff spent too much time dealing with complaints about grammar.
Now, pop culture websites like buzzfeed.com have joined the campaign, with an impassioned plea from blogger Scott Lamb to ban all apostrophes.
“No one uses them correctly and we dont really need them anyhow. I mean really, was there any part of this post that you couldnt understand because of the stupid apostrophes that werent included?” he writes.
Founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, Nobel prize-winner John Richards, comes out swinging. “The little apostrophe deserves our protection. It is indeed a threatened species!”
Apostrophe.org.uk is hard-core porn for punctuation aficionados, exposing shocking cases of abuse.
One real estate ad reads SELLS HOUSES, I’TS THAT SIMPLE. Or perhaps that’s just the agent.
A bottle shop advertises KEG’S ON SALE. (Bad news: We only have one keg. Good news: It’s on sale!)
And don’t get me started on DICKS PHOTOGRAPHY.
Lynne Truss, in her brilliant book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, encourages pedants to take to the streets, armed with marker pens, to restore proper punctuation.
Her bugbear is the greengrocers’ apostrophe, which is used wrongly to form a plural (as in the cheap keg).
In Troublesome Words, author Bill Bryson lambasts the “linguistic neanderthals” at British supermarket chain Tesco for its sins of omission, including signs for ‘mens magazines’ and ‘girls toys’.
There’s even a supporters’ group for the possessive apostrophe on blogspot, Words 101.
“Consider ‘Those things on the bed are my boyfriend’s’ compared with ‘Those things on the bed are my boyfriends’,” write LJ Loch. “One means I’m picking things up, while the other means I’ve picked up!”
She recommends substituting of the, to work out who possesses what.
“For example, ‘the boy’s punishment’ is the punishment of the boy, while ‘the boys’ punishment’ means more than one boy is in trouble,” she explains.
Sadly, we could be fighting a losing battle.
Thee and thou went the way of the dinosaurs, but the evolution of language is not only to blame.
The modern-day culprit is the internet.
Web addresses are apostrophe-averse, forcing businesses into grammatical errors for the sake of consistency.
Am I the only one who feels near-homicidal rage every time I see that ‘whatsnew’ commercial on the telly?
It’s time to take up arms (well, at least textas) to save the endangered apostrophe.
In the words of Lynne Truss, “Sticklers unite! You have nothing to lose but your sense of proportion. Arguably, you didn’t have much of that to begin with”.
Tracey Spicer apologises for the split infinitives, nonrestrictive clauses not preceded by commas and solecisms contained in this article. It ain’t perfect!
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