Citing that it causes confusion, the Mid-Devon local government will discuss proposals to remove the punctuation mark from street signs altogether. Unsurprisingly, language and grammar purists are outraged.
Later this month, the council cabinet in the Mid-Devon district of southwest England will discuss the removal of the apostrophe from its street signs in order to avoid confusion. Predictably, this has caused an uproar among English language purists, including Steve Jenner, spokesperson for the Plain English Campaign: “The whole purpose of punctuation is to make language easier to understand. Is it because someone at the council doesn’t understand how it works?” Exeter University professor Sian Harris agrees: “Usually the best way to teach about punctuation is to show practical examples of it…English is a complicated language as it is [and] removing apostrophes is not going to help with that at all.”
What’s the Big Idea?
The council claims it only wants to formalize a rule for new street names that’s long been in place. Says council communications manager Andrew Lacey, “Our proposed policy on street naming and numbering covers a whole host of practical issues, many of which are aimed at reducing potential confusion over street names.” Mid-Devon isn’t the first locality in the UK to remove apostrophes from its signs; Birmingham’s city council did the same in 2009 and received much of the same criticism.