Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education says Councils removing apostrophes from road signs is an attack on the English language.
Last week’s news that a second local authority, Wakefield, plans to join Birmingham in removing apostrophes from street signs is perhaps more ominous than it seems.
Unless such nonsense is stopped, it could become the norm.
Needless to say, it’s a Liberal Democrat, Martin Mullaney, who devised the policy in Birmingham. Councillor Mullaney, who chairs the transportation scrutiny committee, argues that because some signs in Birmingham do not include the apostrophe, it makes sense to exclude them altogether, as a simple matter of policy. Because it would be expensive to replace existing signs whose apostrophe is missing, he says the sensible course is to get rid of them all. He also suggests that because computerised databases and satellite navigation systems can’t cope with apostrophes, human beings shouldn’t bother with them either.
What tosh! This is typical ‘progressive’ nonsense that should have been killed off as soon as it saw the light of day. As several commentators have pointed out, ignoring apostrophes sets a terrible example to teachers and young people: that correct grammar and punctuation don’t matter. And surely, inaccurate street signs are official advertisements announcing that, in their locality, standards and accuracy have no importance?
Wakefield’s director of planning and property, Ian Thompson, also
makes the pathetic excuse that apostrophes cause problems with
electronic data. But why? Is it the software that can’t cope or is it
the operators? Around 15 years ago, early versions of databases
perhaps did have problems with apostrophes, but is that still true?
Defending apostrophes and other punctuation is not mere pedantry. Some
places have a King’s Road and a Kings Road. Lacking a full postcode,
which does an ambulance head for in an emergency?
Get rid of apostrophes, then the use of commas and full stops (already
happening in many schools and colleges) and what happens to accurate
Ambivalence about spelling is dangerous too. What if a doctor
proscribes a drug for someone because they have a life-threatening
allergy? Make a mistake about one letter and turn proscribe into
prescribe and serious consequences are almost inevitable.
Meanwhile, news that local government is ignoring the apostrophe is not
limited to the shores of Britain. Similar stories of idiotic statements
and behaviour by teachers’ unions, politicians and officials spread
across the world within hours. Other countries, where people used to
respect and admire Britain for its good sense and high standards, now
record – probably with a smile of sadness or pleasure – the nation’s
decline into a collective state of lunacy.
The English language and its literature are renowned for their
precision and ability to express subtle shades of meaning. Can we
afford to stand by and allow its destruction by people who pretend to
be ‘progressive’ when, in reality, they are seriously regressive?