POSSESSION IS 9/10 – OR IS IT?

There is a row raging (er pardon, I mean a vigorous discussion) “to apostrophe or not to apostrophe…that is the question”. Do we follow the Australians, the Americans, (yet again) or remain quintessentially British with the punctuation of our language, both in public and in literature.

The debate highlighted ‘kingseeth’ according to the spokesperson for Birmingham road signs. It saves money not to use the possessive apostrophe, yet, not to, the argument went, does not indicate the true nature of the name of various locations, including ‘Kingseeth’.

Listening to this news feature, it appeared there was also a move afoot to drop our ‘aitches’, two digits fewer would be even cheaper to sign for. What would Shakespeare have made of this… I venture the following lament, ” My Country for the ‘heh’ and the apostrophe”.

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0 thoughts on “POSSESSION IS 9/10 – OR IS IT?

  1. I couldn’t agree more. The proposal is a backward step in order to save money, so the argument goes. The long term effect will be to support the poor use and understanding of grammar and punctuation. There has been deep and vocal criticism for decades about kids and adults who do not know how to use the apostrophe, have no understanding of its use.

    On a visit to the Isle of Wight, I saw many notices in shops (shop’s) using the grocer’s or should it be grocers'(or grocers’s) apostrophe including a large example of it in a bookshop window. I absolutely cringed. I couldn’t believe how many errors of use I was seeing.

  2. All of it. When I was at school, we were taught the ‘proper’ way of writing addresses on envelopes, of typing (leaving lines between paragraphs, indenting and so on) and now all of that is worthless.

    The other thing that is driving me nuts is that my keyboard needs the life bashed out of it to produce letters!

  3. 1. Keyboards are easily replaced, if you can find a 2nd hand one in good order, that could be the cheapest; otherwise a new one for about £5 is very possible. Check your settings/preferences for keyboard though, before you decide finally it is the keyboard. If it all sticky and gungy then you know you could use another implement. 😉

    As for the proper way of laying out text; that is different to grammar, you would have been taught that, I hope, separate from secretarial protocols. I remember when they changed. In many ways it was easier and faster to work in the block form, but it has never, never been, and never should be, an excuse for bad or lax grammar.

    And, at least you and I know what a paragraph can look like in more than one style and tell the kids the reasons why. 🙂

  4. “The first known published reference is in 1874, citing an 1855 letter that credits ghoti to one William Ollier (born 1824).[1] Ghoti is often cited to support English spelling reform, and is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw,[2] a supporter of this cause. However, a biography of Shaw attributes it instead to an anonymous spelling reformer”.[3] (Wikipedia)

    There’s the rest of the possibilities for you.

    What a mish mash. I go with GBS.

    Thanks for this. 🙂

  5. P.S. Kingseeth, should be enunciated thus… King’s Heath. (It wasn’t) Two words, with an aspirant ‘h’ for the second word, Heath.

    I felt a guy creating an argument about grammar, who couldn’t enunciate properly, was hardly the best person to be communicating how English grammar should be used.

  6. Apostrophes are not difficult to master provided they are properly taught.

    What I suspect however, is that the number of teachers able to impart such wisdom is dwindling rapidly.

    We should aspire to use our language properly. English is a beautiful language (most languages are, if used well) What I really object to is when other people try to drag us down to the lowest common denominator.

  7. Apostrophes are indeed not difficult to master. The unfortunate truth is that those that do not know how to use them are really not interested in finding out and simply cannot see what all the fuss is about.

    I see this from academics in erudite work, books (presumably proof-read many times ?), newspapers and (horrors !) even the BBC. Lamentable.

    Hence you get tomato’s (plural), her’s (and presumably hi’s) and who’s (all genitive). A classic one I recently espied was Leed’s United !

    This drifts into other groups of confusion like ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’, frequently used, apparently interchangably, and certainly confusingly, without compunction. Of course, there is always the good ubiquitous stand-by of ‘its’ and ‘it’s’.

    Acceptance of this dumbing down of our beautiful language certainly should not be tolerated at all and protest lodged whenever we see official encroachments of poor grammar and spelling. It is not so much Americanisation (eg thru for through) as plain ignorance.

    Failing this, I fear we shall soon be living in Gr8 Brtn.

    CITF

  8. A wonderful response Tylluan. (Much applause). I agree absolutely, with every point you make.

    I remember at school being taught about the possessive apostrophe both singular and plural. Even if our school was not full of 11+ highlights of our lives, we did know how to use the language in written form. In our class, at any rate, I assume that went for other classes in the year too, we were all turned out, British born or not, knowing how to write and punctuate what we wrote.

    Like you, I suspect some of the younger teachers around now, are unable to impart the knowledge as they haven’t been taught well.

  9. BTW – I got really irritated with the mis-pronunciation by the representative from Birmingham, of the examplar King’s Heath. Even with an accent you can surely aspirate an ‘h’ where there is meant to be one, as accepted in this day and age. I haven’t heard of late that there is a new fashion in this respect.

    I wonder if kids are taught the other use of the apostrophe, the one that indicates a letter is missing. It may have fallen into disuse. It is certainly seen in literature.

  10. Oh horror of horrors (or some might write, horror’s or horrors’…help!). I think it is disgraceful that there should be an acceptance of lower standards of punctuation, “because it would (wait for it) internationalize (maybe that should be globalize) standardization of public signage; the fact that it would be a tiny economy is by the by.

    Saving money was mentioned. I wonder how much an apostrophe on signs would cost in total, in or around Birmingham, in particular King’s Heath, otherwise described as kingseeth

    Text speak is in a different category altogether unless that starts to become standard language for signs. International comprehension will definitely be defied.

  11. Saving money by being economical with the use of apostrophes ? That is a complete red herring and a pathetic official attempt to divert attention from a public display of poor grammar. They should be ashamed.

    I have a Danish friend I put to the test last year on apostrophes, their/there, its/it’s, etc. She is not fully fluent in English (it is her third language) but was spot on with everything. Oops, no, I tell a lie : she was stumped by the pronunciation of Featherstonehaugh!

    Anyway, if she can get it right …

    CITF

  12. Thank you Menhir. (Takes a bow ;))

    I have known people who left school at the age of 13 who could spell and punctuate perfectly. I despair when people who should know better throw up their hands and declare proper punctuation is impossible. It isn’t. It just needs to be properly taught.

    I well remember one of my granddaughter’s primary school teachers (with special responsibility for English) declaring loudly ‘So who is Dylan Thomas then?’
    And she wasn’t asking her class.
    She was asking one of the parents. 🙄

  13. You’re right, public authorities should be ashamed, yet the fall guy for the discussion stated quite clearly that we should have a national debate on the subject, while he, in the meantime, couldn’t aspirate an ‘h’. Someone who is the spotlight, lecturing about our grammar,(or lack of it) should at least be able to enunciate and pronounce English vocabulary.

    The West Midlands powers that be, should be looking at this blog and its commentators to get a feel for the disgrace they are heaping upon themselves; see the sentiments that there are against their ridiculous proposals, in order to hide their inadequacies, ( and probably our national educational inadequacies as well).

  14. Keyboards are easily replaced if I can be bothered to go into the garage and pick up one of the 20 or so we have sitting in there ‘just in case’. Mine probably just needs a good shake to get the toast crumbs out, though 😉

  15. Indeed. One of the things that struck me when having some communication with old class mates in recent times, was they could all turn out a well constructed bit of personal writing. That doesn’t mean to say there were not people in my peer group who had no difficulties. I am not sure how they were helped, if they were.

    There were also a range of other schools for kids with medical/physical problems, not always sensibly used, but they seemed to meet a need even if they might not have been up to scratch by today’s rules. Education was tightly boxed in and not always for the best.

    I was listening to a Scottish comedian (ex-accountant) making a pointed joke about the kids in schools over the border (England) not being able to tell you who their bard is, nor where he was supposed to have hailed from, without a flash card prompt. Whereas, Scottish educated kids could not only tell you about the Scottish bard, he said, but spontaneously recite something from his works, (even if it wasn’t the whole of Tam O’ Shanter).

    Now, I am not born a Scot, yet I knew something about three bards, England, Scotland and Wales. I haven’t the same knowledge for Ireland, except for more recent writers, like Seamus Heaney. Would they be bards in the current meaning of the term, which one would have been selected? I suppose they would, actually, bearing in mind Dylan is not so long ago. That’s says something about my interest in the Arts, I suppose, but not to the exclusion of other parts of my eduction.

    There are no ladies in the Bards lists. :**:

  16. See… there are possibilities for variation. There’s bound to be some bits of chocolate, pain au chocolat perhaps. I’m not sure how you would recognise the bubble-hole of a crumpet.

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