An end at the Apostrophe

The founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, who in 2001 was awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for that achievement, has announced that the Apostrophe Protection Society will come to an end.

He made the announcement with a tinge of happy bitterness. A December 1, 2019 news report in the Evening Standard says:

A society dedicated to preserving the correct use of the apostrophe has shut down because “ignorance has won”.

Retired journalist John Richards, 96, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the “much-abused” punctuation mark was being used correctly.

But Mr Richards has now announced: “With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.

“There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.” …

The Ig Nobel Prize for Literature

The 2001 Ig Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to John Richards of Boston, England, for his efforts to protect, promote, and defend the differences between plural and possessive.

You can watch recorded video of the 2001 announcement, and Mr. Richards’ acceptance speech.

News organizations, especially in Mr. Boston’s neck of the world, have greeted the shutdown news with headlines, among which are:

  • “‘The barbarians have won!’ Boston’s Apostrophe Protection Society closes down after 18 years” [Boston Standard]
  • “‘Laziness has won’: apostrophe society admits its defeat” [The Guardian]
  • “Apostrophe Protection Society comes to a full stop” [The Irish Times]

The End Is Not The End

The end times announcement is not the end of the story. The Apostrophe Protection Society web site carries this announcement by John Richards:

With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.

There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.

We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!

This web site, masterminded by John Hale, will however remain open for some time for reference and interest.

A World of Caring

The depth of human caring about apostrophe usage is still evident, despite the imminent self-demise of the official group. One sees this in a letter published in the Wiltshire Times, on November 29, from one man, who says:

This is not wrong

IN fairness to the owner of the building, I write in response to the letter from Dawn Cleaver (Wiltshire Times 22 November). She states that the new signage on St George’s Works has an errant apostrophe. It does not.

Rather than used to indicate a contraction (the missing letter ‘I’ she suggests), the apostrophe indicates possession and is perfectly correct. Rather than ‘a shocking misspelling on a very prominent building’ I am pleased to see the correct use of a grammatical rule.

Tim Angell, Trowbridge

Our curiosity piqued about this particular apostrophe question, which pertains to a specific site in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, UK, we consulted the UK’s National Archives. The indication there is that an apostrophe is indeed properly needed in this case. Witshire’s government web site concurs. Thus, in propriety, governmentally as well as Societally, at least for now, Tim Angell triumphs over Dawn Cleaver.

 

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