The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

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bystander
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The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by bystander » Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:16 pm

The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe
The Physics arXiv Blog - 2010 Feb 04
Last year, grammatical tragedy struck in the heart of England when Birmingham City Council decreed that apostrophes were to be forever banished from public addresses. To the horror of purists and pedants alike, place names such as St Paul's Square were banned and unceremoniously replaced with an apostrophe-free version: St Pauls Square.

The council's reasoning was that nobody understands apostrophes and their misuse was so common in public signs that they were a hindrance to effective navigation. Anecdotes abounded of ambulance drivers puzzling over how to enter St James's Street into a GPS navigation system while victims of heart attacks, strokes and hit 'n' run drivers passed from this world into the (presumably apostrophe-free) next
"Mind your p's and q's?": or the Peregrinations of an Apostrophe in 17th Century English

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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by The Code » Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:06 am

You mean the real Birmingham? The one Your Birmingham is named after? :lol:
bystander wrote:Last year, grammatical tragedy struck in the heart of England when Birmingham City Council decreed that apostrophes were to be forever banished from public addresses.

Yeah I can believe that. Hey did you know we all owe 1.5 trillion :shock:

Big brother Is watching, Must not Say to much.

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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by Chris Peterson » Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:01 am

bystander wrote:The Physics arXiv Blog - 2010 Feb 04
Last year, grammatical tragedy struck in the heart of England when Birmingham City Council decreed that apostrophes were to be forever banished from public addresses. To the horror of purists and pedants alike, place names such as St Paul's Square were banned and unceremoniously replaced with an apostrophe-free version: St Pauls Square.
The council's reasoning was that nobody understands apostrophes and their misuse was so common in public signs that they were a hindrance to effective navigation. Anecdotes abounded of ambulance drivers puzzling over how to enter St James's Street into a GPS navigation system while victims of heart attacks, strokes and hit 'n' run drivers passed from this world into the (presumably apostrophe-free) next
Probably a good decision. In the U.S., they were long ago removed from all geographical place names, which has greatly simplified things for map makers and search engines. (I notice in the example that the period is absent after "St"; that's also a punctuation style I applaud. I wonder if that was simply the style of author, or is already conventional usage?)
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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by neufer » Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:24 am

Art Neuendorffer

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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by Chris Peterson » Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:51 am

Just to be clear about my earlier comment: while I think the decision to eliminate apostrophes from the names of geographic features (and place names in general) is, for the most part, a good one, I am certainly not suggesting that the apostrophe be eliminated from its role as a marker of the genitive in most English usage. Like Mr Richards, I deplore the misuse of the apostrophe that is seen all too often these days. The rules aren't really all that complex; I don't know why so many people have problems with them.

I hope that texting doesn't drive the evolution of English- if so, we can expect to lose punctuation, capitalization, and vowels!
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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by BMAONE23 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:01 am

Say it isn't so, I couldn't stand loosing out on Vowel Movements

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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by geckzilla » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:05 am

Sometimes I catch myself using a muscle memory. I'll type an apostrophe before an s that happens to be on the end of a word even though I know it shouldn't be there. Isn't that strange? I know how and when to use apostrophes but every now and then something else takes over and an apostrophe ends up where it should not.

It is ironic that the apostrophe has become a nuisance. Once upon a time it was really hard to read because words weren't even separated by spaces, let alone handy indicators such as commas and apostrophes.
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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by rstevenson » Fri Feb 05, 2010 2:34 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:I hope that texting doesn't drive the evolution of English- if so, we can expect to lose punctuation, capitalization, and vowels!
It would be difficult for any kind of civilization to survive on txtng only. We use apostrophes, letter and paragraph spaces, indents, bullets, spelling and grammar not because they are rules to be followed but because they enhance communication. And we have hundreds of years of knowledge stored using those conventions.

Yes, a secondary form of communication could develop (is developing, I suppose) using short forms. But the same people that are so adept at that also have to be adept at the more complex forms in common use, else they will be unemployable. Economic survival is a strong motivator!

Having said that, I also assume and accept that language evolves. Dropping apostrophes in certain circumstances is an example of that evolution. "Re-spelling" certain words may also happen, though often with an increase in ambiguity -- as witness the current trend to ignore the difference between you're and your.

A curious example just came across my desk. I'm helping a friend add old articles he wrote in the late 1950s to a web site. I noticed he consistently used " 'tho' " instead of " although " in several places. He was raised in and was writing in England for an English academic audience, so that may have been a regional "thang" or it may have been an academic or even class-based affectation. I've never seen it before, so I guess it didn't catch on.

Language is fascinating -- if you know what I mean. :)

Rob

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Re: The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Post by Chris Peterson » Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:14 pm

rstevenson wrote:It would be difficult for any kind of civilization to survive on txtng only.
Seen some of the texters? I fear for civilization! <g>
Having said that, I also assume and accept that language evolves. Dropping apostrophes in certain circumstances is an example of that evolution. "Re-spelling" certain words may also happen, though often with an increase in ambiguity -- as witness the current trend to ignore the difference between you're and your.
Yeah, I'm a big proponent of allowing a language to evolve naturally (as opposed to those who try to keep it static). Spelling changes rarely concern me (although I'd not let a student get away with your "you're" example). For the sake of clarity, there remains good reason to differentiate contractions from their homophones, and to maintain a method of flagging the genitive in nouns.
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