Saturday, 16 March 2013

Apostrophic punctuation.

If Hamlet's trusty Marcellus were here now, he might conclude there is something rotten in the state of Devonshire. The apostrophe is being murdered, as it lies sleeping in the garden.

Mid Devon District Council is intent on marrying the street signs seemingly for their own good and yet will lead to ruination and chaos. Their declaration of abandoning the use of the apostrophe in street signs is only for the good of the local people, they say. How much confusion will be avoided if only the apostrophe were not blemishing those signs! they cry. And, indeed, who could blame their most honourable stance against the apostrophe when Blundell's Avenue causes panic to all those who do not avert their eyes from the hideous mark between the l and the s, denoting possession. Perhaps they are far Left Grammaticals: no more possessives! their slogan. Give the people back their letters! Down with the dictatorial presence of apostrophes!

I must confess, I had no idea apostrophes in street signs were so baffling, or so tyrannical. Who are they, those who melt into quivering wrecks at a mere glance of Beck's Square yet are perfectly capable of sauntering past Bakers View? What manner of person is it who is so affronted by a correctly placed apostrophe? When asked this reasonable question Mid Devon District Council declined to comment. Perhaps it is they themselves who suffer from apostrophobia, not the townsfolk. Take them away immediately and replace them with people who can use punctuation properly without developing a rash.

How long before the full stop is persecuted? How long before the question mark the comma the semicolon are wiped from all written existence and the written word becomes something like a talkative sixyearold who cannot possibly draw breath or stop and is forced forever more to use conjunctions lest it come to the end of a sentence and have no way of knowing how to terminate it

Ghoulish, n'est-ce pas? I once signed a contract for a flat; a contract that warned me of the dire consequences should "any breeches of the conditions stipulated in this contract...[etc etc]" occur. A spelling error it may be, and no grammatical mistake, but even so. My breeches are no one's business but my own. Except maybe Hamlet's. Possessive.

Let us not march towards irrevocable entropy. Let us not have the misery of dredging the river for a drowned Semi-colon. Let us not face a stage-produced Comma wringing its non-existent hands reciting:
"To be, or not to be; that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The Tip-ex and erasers of outrageous council policy,
Or to take arms against a board of apostrophobes,
And, by opposing, end them..."

Let us have a world in which punctuation may freely roam, if correctly used, and add to the coherence of our written language. Let us keep our scriptorial demonstration of possession.

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