Eric, a regular correspondent of this column, caring not one whit for my blood pressure, sent me a link to a story about the Hampshire village of Twyford and its apostrophe battle.
A street, St Mary’s Terrace, had a new sign erected which omitted the apostrophe.
The amazing part was the local council’s response. They whimpered: “But the national guidance is to do away with punctuation in street signs”.
This is in England and Wales. I hope Scotland has more sense.
The reason given for this nationally guided apostrophecide (I made that word up) was, quite incredibly, that punctuation might be misinterpreted if read by a computer.
Hold on just a cotton-picking minute!
I’ve been reading reports all year which darkly warn about artificial intelligence. They’ve led me to believe AI will take over the world, make slaves of humans, and replace grammar columnists with small beeping boxes (what do you mean you’d hardly notice!)
I have come to regard AI as an alien baddie that would give even Captain Kirk a run for his money.
But it turns out that, never mind photon torpedoes and doing inexplicable things with the warp core, all you have to do to is insert an apostrophe into a word and that’s AI beat.
Anyway, what sort of person believes apostrophes aren’t needed? The sort who thinks that were and we’re are the same word, I imagine.
But there are malcontents roaming the wild hinterlands of punctuation usage who will gleefully point out apostrophe difficulties.
Do you give an apostrophe to the pluralised do in “dos and don’ts”, is one of their sneaky questions. Because what is a “dos”, they triumphantly trumpet (cheating by pronouncing it “doss”).
And if you had a large collection of the letters a and i, would you say you had lots of is and as? Because it would be easier to understand if you said you had a’s and i’s! Aha Mr Finan (they cry) get out of that without moving!
OK, I concede. If, once in a quintillion lifetimes, you have to say you own more than one letter i, and the future of civilisation relies upon making this crystal clear in writing, perhaps it might be forgivable to use a technically incorrect apostrophe.
But the rest of the time, let’s fight the good fight to keep up a healthy, beneficial, and correct (if I was the type of person who underlined words for emphasis, I’d underline “correct”) use of apostrophes in our written language. Especially on street signs.
Word of the week
Having no equal. EG: ”The apostrophe is my, and should be everyone’s, nonpareil standard where the language is concerned. We shall stand strong to defend the apostrophe. For if we lose this battle we lose the war!”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org