Who Cares about the Humble Apostrophe?

The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia), October 24, 2009 | Go to article overview

Who Cares about the Humble Apostrophe?


I almost didn't go and see Couples Retreat because of its wanton disregard for the apostrophe. If it is the retreat of the couples (and it is), then the correct title should have been Couples' Retreat. That goes for you too, Two Weeks Notice.

But I did go and see it (and liked it very much) because I am determined not to let my apostrophe rage rule my life. As wildly mad as I get EVERY SINGLE TIME I pull up at my local corner store - the store that sells "newspaper's" and "todays bread"- I still walk inside and buy my newspapers and today's bread. I am, at the end of the day, a functioning apostropholic.

A part of me wonders if I should give up the fight altogether. No-one apparently cares anymore about basic grammar and punctuation, least of all those parties that should, such as signwriters and advertising copywriters and English teachers.

Indeed in other parts of the world (thankfully not yet Australia, which is still learning how to pronounce its own name), quite sophisticated campaigns are afoot to completely eradicate the apostrophe. Some are driven by frustrated academics - people like phonetics professor Dr John Wells who asked the London University College Spelling Society, "Do we really have nothing better to do with our lives than fret about the apostrophe?". (Um, yes?)

Other dissenters are from the pop culture crowd - too-cool-for-school types like REM guitarist Peter Buck who said, "We all hate apostrophes. There's never been a good rock album that had an apostrophe in the title." (Oh, hullo, 'Who's Next' by The Who, 'Sam's Town' by The Killers. Hullo, 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band'!)

England's second largest city, Birmingham, has officially banned the use of apostrophes in all council signage, arguing that the punctuation mark is both unnecessary and confusing. …

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