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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After getting very excited about a rumor floating around the nets yesterday afternoon that Pope Francis had thrown the disgraced Bernard, Cardinal Law out of the Vatican on his monstrous backside, a rumor that now appears to be unfounded, ol’ Robbo came to the realization that it is time to calm down, take a deep breath and just wait to see what happens.

So instead, I give you this:  Council bans apostrophes from all street signs to avoid ‘confusion’.  

Mid-Devon District Council said its new streets had not contained apostrophes for many years but the policy was now being made official.

Residents and plain English campaigners criticised the move, but the council said apostrophes could only be found in three street names in the district.

It added that Beck’s Square and Blundell’s Avenue both in Tiverton and St George’s Well in Cullompton were all named many years ago.

Andrew Lacey, of Mid-Devon District Council, said there was no national guidance that stops apostrophes being used.

But proofreader Mary de Vere Taylor from Ashburton said the thought of apostrophes being removed made her shudder.

I shudder, too.  Indeed, the grammar aside, I find myself mystified at what possible “confusion” could result from the difference between “Beck’s” and “Becks” Square.  Would the presence of the apostrophe be enough to distract a lorry driver, causing him to careen straight through the plate-glass window of a nearby china shop?

In my misspent yoot, we lived next door to some people I will call the Smiths.  They had a little plaque on their mailbox pillar that read “the Smith’s” which the Mothe routinely mocked to our tender ears.  Indeed, these folks became known in the family vocabulary as “the Smith-apostrophe-s”.

I never forgot that.  It was, perhaps, a rayther more brutal form of grammatickal education than the Schoolhouse Rock ditties on the teevee, but it was quite effective for all that.

In fact, the rules of apostrophe usage are really quite easy.  If the Mid-Devon District Council is so concerned as to feel compelled to take O-fficial action, instead of dumbing down the street signs may I suggest that they stock the local library with copies of Lynne Truss’s The Girl’s Like Spaghetti:  Why, You CAN’T Manage Without Apostrophes!  

UPDATE:  Here’s a nifty little article on the historickal development of the possessive apostrophe, a story that has always given me a great deal of geeky pleasure.


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March 2013