We all know grammar and our education system’s focus on it here in the United States has been on the outs for some time. As our lives shift into cyberworld, the words that pour forth are being spoken and typed faster then ever, resulting in syntax being shortened, abbreviated, hacked to death, so on and so forth. I’d provide examples, but it pains me to use Instant Messaging lingo.
It pains me also to read that Great Britain has decided to do away with apostrophes on its street signs, claiming “they’re confusing and old-fashioned.” (Click on the highlighted words, Dad, to read the MSNBC news story. Boyfriend, you hate MSNBC, so don’t click.)
Old-fashioned. Correct grammar is old-fashioned. Now, I’m hardly a grammarian. Or a purist for that matter. But calling apostrophes “confusing” seems, uh, ironic.
Apostrophes and other grammatical marks—periods, commas, hyphens, parentheses, etc.—are used to prevent confusion. You want to boggle someone’s mind? Send him/her an e-mail with no punctuation. Likely there will be a lot of head scratching. And a reply back to you asking for clarification. Unless the sender is a teenager, in which case he/she can decode punctuation-less notes without a problem because he/she lives on Instant Messenging speak.
The problem isn’t apostrophes. The problem is no one wants to take the time to teach our youngsters (or anyone else for that matter) how to properly use them.
The article claims it’s not a matter of grammar, but rather an update of actual destinations. “King’s Heath,” now “Kings Heath” is no longer owned by the monarchy, so really, since it’s not possessed by someone, it does not need an apostrophe. That’s great. Now all sense of history is being thrown away too. British residents were hoping to keep the apostrophes to help maintain historical perspective. No such luck.
Plus, apostrophes, say British officials, confuse Garmins and TomToms trying to find locations. However, GPS units tend to start finding a location as you type in letters and locate your destination before you even get to the apostrophe. Nice try, apostrophe haters.
By the way, I own a copy of Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves mentioned in the article. My favorite part of the book is the section that provides giant apostrophe stickers. For the reader to go make his/her own corrections on annoying apostrophe-less signs around his/her town.