Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Apostrophe Catastrophe

Regular blog readers will have read my furious reaction when the Sutton Guardian saw fit to pick upon a well-meaning road surfacing contractor for misspellings in his hastily-written sign.

I am slightly more forgiving of their report about the bungled road sign which appeared in 'Assembley Walk' (sic) Carshalton - not least because of the money that must have been wasted in having to correct this schoolboy error.

It seems that the issue of spelling and grammar in road signs is something of a nationwide problem (according, at least, to the Daily Telegraph). It reports how councils across the country are issuing their hapless staff with idiot's guides to the use of apostrophes and other punctuation marks.

The article cites John Ever of St Philip's Avenue, Worcester Park who told them:

"Here in Liberal Democrat-controlled Sutton the council tries to please everyone. Of the four road signs for our road, two are with an apostrophe and two are without."

On this occasion, I sympathise with those who rage against the absence or misappropriation of apostrophes and other examples of sloppy grammar from official bodies who should, and must, do better.

For many, proper punctuation and grammar is now seen as an irrelevance. To my mind, it is about upholding standards and basic professionalism.

I probably shan't go the the lengths of Stefan Gatward, featured in the Telegraph article, who roamed his home town painting in missing apostrophes on road signs.

I shall, however, continue to expect Sutton Council and anyone else who should know better to lead the way in grammatical correctness.

Am I being too middle-class again?

8 COMMENTS (Add Yours Now!):

Sign Of The Times said...

It's not just punctuation. I walk past a street in central London that is called Pineapple Court on one side and Pine Apple Court on the other facing sign.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for Ross's Fruiterers, which is a rare example of a business using correct grammar in its signage!

Anonymous said...

Ross' or Ross's, that is the question?

Anonymous said...

That is NOT the question! As I said, and call me a fastidious old fashioned grammar bore (in fact I am of the recent generation for whom grammar was unfortunately deemed an unnecessary inclusion in the English syllabus... but find it now of critical importance in my job) this is a rare example of the CORRECT use of an apostrophe 's' - i.e. where the possessive form of a singular noun ending in 's' is correctly written "s's" - see St JameS'S Park tube station on any underground map...

Anonymous said...

I was asking a rhetorical question in this circumstance as an addition to your own comment, as the incorrect use of apostrophes also annoys myself. If you actually want to check Mr Fastidious old fashioned grammar bore? Both forms are acceptable for possesive nouns ending in an s. See St James' Park on any football fixture list when Newcastle are playing at home.


Anonymous said...

To avoid picking holes, I'll focus on a couple of points you have raised.
1. I don't understand your second sentence. In any event, if it is directed at the poster (person, in this instance, not item afixed to wall), then it would be MRS Fastidious Grammar Bore (please call me MFGB for short, if it helps).
2. I entirely agree that both "s's" and "s'" are acceptable for possessive nouns ending in 's'. I was merely pointing out that when the noun is SINGULAR in such circumstances, then the correct form is "s's"; otherwise, and using your example, just how many "Jameses" are we talking about? Without the correct use of the apostrophe 's', it is impossible to tell. My reference to the tube map was purely illustrative of the correct usage; there are plenty of examples of incorrect usage out there.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for you response, although somewhat of a pedant myself, you do appear to be even more so, I respect and enjoy your outlook. Especially when your pedantry overwhelms your ability to have laugh and have fun. Rather than bickering like those engaged in racist chat on the website are you willing to agree that language is a dynamic and fluid entity that is ultimately bound by rules created by general consensus and acceptance, after all we are not French and should embrace that.

Its Aitch not Hhhhhhaitch, even though this is a battle being lost. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Anonymous said...

Oui! Although on the France point, the weather is warmer over there...don't get me started


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