Home News Apostrophes have been dropped from street signs in a British town. Some...

Apostrophes have been dropped from street signs in a British town. Some people are unhappy.


Malcolm Wood, an English teacher in North Yorkshire, did a double take as he passed St Mary’s Walk, a quiet road, recently. The street’s new sign has no apostrophe.

The change, part of North Yorkshire County Council’s move to phase out apostrophes from street signs, has sparked dissent in the Victorian spa town of Harrogate in northern England. Shortly after the new sign was erected, someone drew an apostrophe on it.

“If you take away the apostrophe, what happens next?” Mr. Wood has been teaching students the rules of English grammar for many years. “Comma? Period?” he asked. “We only use emojis?”

North Yorkshire County Council says its policy of phasing out apostrophes is not new.

Karl Battersby, the council’s director of environment, said in a statement on Thursday: “We appreciate that residents value the meaning and history behind official street names, which often date back centuries, and the removal of Punctuation is considered a drop in standards.” “However, the decision does have benefits, such as helping to prevent complications when searching the database.” He said the committee would review the matter.

Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, wrote to the council leader on Wednesday on behalf of several constituents who complained to him about the removal of apostrophes from signs on St Mary’s Walk and Harrogate. The special King’s Road.

“We spend time, effort and money teaching children how to use punctuation correctly, so our council should also use punctuation correctly,” Mr Jones said in a statement, urging the council to reverse its policy.

A local news site reported on the apostrophe policy last month, stray ferret, after a resident complained to the publication about new signs on St Mary’s Walk.

While some grammarians say apostrophes are as important as correct spelling, others say they serve no real purpose.

Columbia University linguist John McWhorter says he cringes a little when he sees a misused apostrophe, but he’s never confused about the author’s meaning.

Dr. McWhorter, who writes a weekly column for The New York Times, said: “Ultimately, no coherent reason can be made that apostrophes aid clarity.” He added that they were simply “a kind of ornament.”

Dr. McWhorter says the apostrophe is the “harpoon” of punctuation. “They sit there and you’re not quite sure how to use them; you’re almost certainly going to use them wrong.”

Dr. McWhorter says apostrophes creep into written English for arbitrary reasons. “It’s another way of looking down on people who never fully grasp ‘it’ and ‘it is,’ when we should actually be thinking about how effectively they get their message across.”

Ellie Ley, an English lecturer at the University of York in the UK, said debates over grammatical usage evoke strong feelings because language is an important part of identity. Still, apostrophes are “pretty modern” in English history, she said. Dr Rai said they were used to mark possession with limited functionality until the 16th century, before being used more extensively in the 17th or 18th century.

The apostrophe has been removed from some British shop names over the years, such as Bettys Café Tea Rooms, one of Harrogate’s most famous shops, which removed the apostrophe decades ago. Waterstones, the British bookseller founded by Tim Waterstone, dropped the apostrophe from its name in 2012.

Bob McCalden, president of the Apostrophe Preservation Society, a small British organization dedicated to promoting the correct use of apostrophes, said he had no problem with businesses removing apostrophes from names, but the gradual removal of apostrophes from street names was “Cultural Vandalism”. “

He said removing the apostrophe from St Mary’s Walk obscured the history of the street, which was named after the nearby St Mary’s Church. “We should acknowledge and celebrate our social history rather than try to erase it.”

Mr McCalden said he was drafting a letter to the chief executive of North Yorkshire County Council to try to persuade it to reverse its decision.There is some precedent: a decade ago, Cambridge City Council changed decision Remove the apostrophe from the new road name.Last year, after residents complained about new signs on St Mary’s Terrace no apostrophelocal leaders replaced the signs, including one.

Harrogate-based writer Rebecca Evans acknowledges that language changes over time. But she said the council’s rationale for changing the sign was not inspiring. “It would be a bit sad if computer software dictated the language changes in towns and cities,” she said.

Mr. McCalden, also a retired information technology director, questioned what computer system couldn’t cope with an apostrophe. He said, using the post office as an example, it’s not like postal workers were saying to their computer system, ‘Oh my gosh, it crashed because we got an apostrophe in a street name.’ ‘”

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