Monday, March 18, 2013

The Apostrophe's fate

I'm not a linguist nor am I a perfectionist or a nit-picker but I do believe in protecting the Queen's English, as we used to say. When I was a fourth grade teacher many years ago I remember spending many hours teaching the value and virtues of correct grammar so that one's meaning could be precisely communicated. One of the main topics of the fourth grade curriculum was the apostrophe and I remember going over carefully all the instances for using the apostrophe as well as those when one should not use it. According to this Googled resource there are an unfortunate 13 rules identified for using or not using the apostrophe. I wonder if they chose 13 on purpose?

The apostrophe has landed on my radar screen because of this interesting discussion going on in the county of Devon in England where they have decided, for now, to ban the use of the apostrophe on road signs. The Chairman of the local County Council thought apostrophes caused confusion! (Perhaps he was confused about when to use one). This was met with a swift rebuttal from Mary de Vere Taylor from Ashburton who said the thought of apostrophes being removed made her "shudder"."It's almost as though somebody with a giant eraser is literally trying to erase punctuation from our consciousness," she told BBC News. She said there was something "terribly British and terribly reassuring" about well-written and well-punctuated writing. "Some may say I should get a life and get out more, but if I got out more and saw place names with no apostrophes where there should be, I shudder to think how I'd react," she added. (From BBC News March 15). Clearly, all this shuddering is not a good thing!

The retention of grammatical rules in "public" places is an interesting issue in these times of "private" social media where the conventions of the English language are constantly under attack.  

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