Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Mid Devon Council abolishes the apostrophe

In a move which throws the members of Mid Devon Council into the bin marked “Fit for purpose?”, it has announced the abolition of apostrophes from road signs to avoid… wait for it… confusion!

Two doubt arise about their competence to hold office, one regarding their ignorance of established language structures, and the second being how intelligent they appear to think anyone reading signs in their area might be, if they really think the proper use apostrophes will be “confusing”.

In a statement, a council spokesman said: “If we didn’t have a clear street name and number policy in place it could lead to inappropriate and confusing street names which could also have adverse consequences in times of emergency”, which some might say is a carefully constructed form of words that stopped just short of using the usual mantra of “For health and safety reasons”, and attracting derision for misusing the term, and being branded Jobsworths.

Their defence is that there is no national guideline regarding the used of the apostrophe (I would have thought that standard grammar would apply), and they have a tradition of not using the apostrophe in their road signs anyway, have only three streets where it would appear, and will not do so in future for new street names.

They could just as easily have said that apostrophes would be applied in accordance with standard usage, and there would have been no adverse comments, no criticism, no fuss… and I’d bet no confusion.

If the omission of the apostrophe were not such a significant issue, it changes a possessive term into a plural term, which is completely different in meaning, then it would possibly not be worth of mention. But, it does have historic implications, since one of the clues to an area’s past can be gained from street names, where places bear a relation to the person or subject they are named after – something the apostrophe can indicate. Omitting the apostrophe, and making the term plural, merely implies more than one, and no real connection.

The handy example from Westminster Council would have Mid Devon Council in a fluster, since the two signs photographed are on opposite sides of the same road – the top one is largely nonsense and has little meaning, while the bottom one seems to be perfectly legible, understandable, and sensible… despite the inclusion of the apostrophe:

Bishop's apostrophe

Bishop’s apostrophe – via jonanamary’s photostream in flickr

See the original in flickr, where it has attracted one or two comments.


March 19, 2013 - Posted by | council | , , , ,

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