Devon abolishes the apostrophe – sticklers for good English take their markers
MID-Devon District Council has abolished the apostrophe from all new street names. This will “avoid potential confusion”. It does not say who might be confused.
Tiverton’s Beck’s Square and Blundell’s Avenue, and Cullompton’s St George’s Well were “all named many, many years ago”, and can retain their apostrophes. But new street names will not feature the grammar.
Andrew Lacey, from the council, says there is “no national guidance that stops apostrophes being used”.
Mary de Vere Taylor from Ashburton is most unhappy. She tells the BBC:
“It’s almost as though somebody with a giant eraser is literally trying to erase punctuation from our consciousness… 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.”
One would hazard to guess, with a marker pen, literally.
The protectors of the language say this goes to the heart of national identity. Steve Jenner, from the Plain English Campaign, says the apostrophe is one of the basic rules of language. Mary de Vere Taylor says the apostrophe is “terribly British and terribly reassuring”.
An apostrophe says “I’m home”.
Are you a stickler for correct English?
We recall an exchange between Gillian Shephard and Wallace Arnold, satirist Craig Brown’s creation, who was once invited to take part in the Government’s Good English Campaign:
…the following day I received a splendidly formal letter, signed in her absence, requesting I serve on her new committee to boost spoken English among the Great Unwashed (dread section of the community!). Our chairman was to be Mr Trevor McDonald (certainly not one of the farming McDonalds – I jest!) and my fellow committee members were to include Sir David English, Mr Gyles Brandreth, Major Ronald Ferguson, Mr Henry Cooper, Postman Pat, Michael Winner and – representing the lovely ladies, Miss (Msss!) Clare Rayner.
Our meeting went exceedingly well, my presence proving a worthy deterrent to any slackness in English usage that might otherwise have crept in. “Let’s kick off by introducing each other,” began Trevor.
“Ahem …” I interjected. “Am I being unnecessarily prudish in thinking that ‘kick off’ may be rather too informal, even verging on the colloquial, even – forgive me – SLANG?”
“Quite,” said Trevor.
“Quite what?” I asked pleasantly.
“Quite. Agreed,” he said.
“Quite agreed?” I asked. “Why only quite?”
“You have me there,” he said.
“Can we move on?”
“‘Move on?'” said I, the twinkle still aflame in my eye, “But where on earth is the vehicle for so doing?”