April 10, 2014

Joely Mitchell

English language lovers are currently at war with local councils in Britain as they try to protect our favourite punctuation mark, the apostrophe.

Cities in Britain are changing the names of some of their streets through the omission of apostrophes in the hope that it will avoid potential confusion, for example when typing the name into a GPS. For example, ‘St Paul’s Square’ is now apostrophe-less.

This follows the recent death of an asthmatic teenager whose ambulance went to the wrong address after a GPS apostrophe error.

Although the push to have an apostrophe-less street name system like Australia and the United States is proving to be difficult, punctuation protectors have been using permanent markers to put the apostrophe back where it belongs themselves.

Kathy Salaman from Britain’s Good Grammar Company says that the issue was about upholding wider standards. “The tendency is now that if something is too difficult, let’s get rid of it,” she said. “Why are we trying to improve literacy when actually in real life people say that it doesn’t really matter?”

Founder and chairman from the Apostrophe Protection Society (can I please join), John Richard, says that the language is declining as people get lazier and more ignorant. “It is setting a very bad example because teachers are teaching children punctuation and then they see road signs with apostrophes removed,” he said.

Language efficiency is being improved everyday, with neologisms (newly created words fit for  new concepts) being developed everywhere.

Shortenings and abbreviations have become commonplace in society thanks to the immediacy of social media and although you wouldn’t use it in an English essay, it’s highly acceptable to say ‘ur’ instead of ‘your’ or ‘IDK’ instead of ‘I don’t know’ via text or online. If you want to use a symbol like ‘@’ instead of ‘at’, the message will also be sufficiently conveyed.

I think we can all appreciate that the examples mentioned above allow us to convey messages on Snap Chat or Twitter properly even with character restrictions, but they are also fastening and improving the process of communication.

So where do we draw the line? When somebody’s grammar has no excuse to be wrong, eg “his coming with me” instead of the correct, “he’s coming with me”, there’s clearly a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.

With an increasing amount of people either too lazy or too incompetent to use grammar correctly, maybe the government does have more of a responsibility to uphold grammatical standards in all walks of life, including street signs.

 – Joely Mitchell

– cartoon by Judy Horacek

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