armchair cultural observation since 1995

Birmingham bans apostrophes

A city in England apparently overwhelmed by complaints over the punctuation of certain street signs has decided to throw in the towel on apostrophes, according to a Telegraph article that reads like a piece from The Onion.

The Birmingham City Council recently said goodbye to the apostrophe on signs for St. Paul’s Square and other streets in the city, despite understandable protests from folks like John Richards, the founder of what sounds like an Onion-fabricated organization named the Apostrophe Protection Society:

“This is setting a terrible example,” Mr Richards said. “It seems retrograde, dumbing down really. All over Birmingham, and in other cities, teachers are trying to teach children correct grammar and punctuation. Now children will go around Birmingham and see utter chaos.”

Mr Richards suggested the move could prove to be the first step towards linguistic anarchy. “If you don’t have apostrophes,” he said, “is there any point in full stops, or semi-colons, or question marks? Is there any point in punctuation at all?”

Of course, the article also notes that the city has been “quietly phasing out apostrophes since the 1950s.”

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