Storm in a (cream) tea cupIn grammar and spelling
Ah Devon, where La Famille Carrington would decamp seemingly every summer for sunshine, scampi and a daily packet of beef-and-onion flavoured crisps in The Old Smithy. Happy days indeed.
But not any more, it seems. This story appeared in a couple of newspapers last week (deadlines mean I’ve only just picked up on it). In short, the local council is banning the use of apostrophes in street signs and new street names, and it’s not gone down well at all. Anyone familiar with the public narrative about decline in standards in British education can have a fairly good guess about how this ‘debate’ proceeded.
Personally I think it’s much ado about nothing. I can do punctuation pedantry with the best of them but is anyone going to get lost because the apostrophe in Bakers View is missing? Are future archaeologists going to fatally misunderstand the distribution of crusty bloomers in the early 21st Century? No, of course not. And that’s the point. Grammar is a tool to help clarify and guide us. Not a tyrant to confuse us. Passing off a plural as a possessive in corporate comms is pretty unforgivable. On street sign – who really cares?
The most interesting thing about the whole story is discovering the existence of the actual Apostrophe Protection Society – an august body of which I had previously been unaware, and whose acquaintance it clearly behoves me to cultivate. Apparently they care. They care a lot.