"Small floater, you stay above the fray
a wink at nothing's nod, a raised brow
watching p's and q's, a selfless mote
between I and m, a little horn of plenty
spilling plurals, disdaining the bottom line."
"Apostrophe to the Apostrophe" by Eric Nelson
Ken alerted me to something at coffee this morning that I think bears mentioning. Mid Devon, a town in England, has dropped its proposed apostrophe ban. It appears that the little punctuation mark was interfering with the GPS lexicon.
This is most certainly good news to one John Richards, founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society. It is comforting to know that as we work and sleep and go about our daily business, there are societies like this that work tirelessly to protect us from the general dumbing down.
I must admit that I have been an occasional apostrophe offender in the past. One Jane Milner Mares corrected my use of it's as a possessive several years ago and the pain of the remonstration still faintly lingers. Ditto the use to denote a plural.
The dullards in Birmingham, Britain's second largest city, started the anti apostrophe wave almost sixty years ago, a wave that reached a fever pitch in the last five years until it was finally squelched by the language's defenders.
Councilor Martin Mullaney, who heads the city's transport scrutiny committee, said he decided to act after yet another interminable debate into whether "Kings Heath," a Birmingham suburb, should be rewritten with an apostrophe.
"I had to make a final decision on this," he said Friday. "We keep debating apostrophes in meetings and we have other things to do."
Mullaney hopes to stop public campaigns to restore the apostrophe that would tell passers-by that "Kings Heath" was once owned by the monarchy.
"Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed," he said. "More importantly, they confuse people. If I want to go to a restaurant, I don't want to have an A-level (high school diploma) in English to find it."
But grammarians say apostrophes enrich the English language.
"They are such sweet-looking things that play a crucial role in the English language," said Marie Clair of the Plain English Society, which campaigns for the use of simple English. "It's always worth taking the effort to understand them, instead of ignoring them."In her best-selling book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves," Lynne Truss recorded her fury at the title of the Hugh Grant-Sandra Bullock comedy "Two Weeks Notice," insisting it should be "Two Weeks' Notice.""Those spineless types who talk about abolishing the apostrophe are missing the point, and the pun is very much intended," she wrote.
Here's a refresher from the society page:
And I have to leave with one of my favorite old sonnets, the bard's ode to bowlegged men; Forsooth, what manner of men are these? Whose bollucks hang 'tween parentheses.