Following on from my post about the seemingly insoluble problem of people simply not bothering with apostrophes in signs and place names, Birmingham City Council has officially decided no longer to include apostrophes in any street signs. See here for further details.
They claim it’s consistent. Well, surely it would still have been consistent to put the apostrophes in properly? Such an opportunity missed for educating the masses of Birmingham.
I and fellow grammarians (visit the Apostrophe Protection Society here) have been ranting and raving about the current inability of the majority of the population to use apostrophes correctly for some time. Limited no longer to greengrocer’s (sic), the possessive has become Teutonicised into a simple ‘s’, minus apostrophe, or the apostrophe is thrust ardently into verbs that have absolutely no use for it and so on and so forth.
This practice seems particularly prevalent on signs (e.g. ‘Starbucks’, where the apostrophe is never used even in general company documentation, despite it being named in part after the character in Moby Dick), where you would have thought that the company producing them would have someone to proofread what they were being paid to compose. See also this pub sign from our local old men’s pub. This particular pub has been on the same site since the 16 century, but I suspect the sign is a much later addition!
However, walking around on days out I’ve started to notice that this isn’t just a modern phenomenon. I’m talking here more about the omission of apostrophes than their misapplication.