Thursday, 13 November 2008

So farewell then, beloved apostrophe?

I posted here about "correct", or probably I should have said "accepted", grammar and punctuation a while ago. Simply because accepted usages promote ease of communication, I felt that this was A Good Thing. I added a corollary though, here.

Back in September the Register (online IT newspaper) reported on John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London, who was proposing "freeing up" English spelling and doing away with the apostrophe. This was the response. It's rather frightening that people should get so hysterical and abusive (and also ironic that they should include so many errors themselves).* University professors SHOULD come up with radical ideas, not reinforce your cosy perceptions. I'm not keen on the phonetic spelling myself because I don't think it's really easier to read. I could say farewell to the apostrophe without much of a pang, though, because I don't think it's usually vital to comprehension. I suspect that SOME of these people (the nasty, aggressive ones) actually like feeling superior when somebody else gets the apostrophe wrong. Grammar as distinguishing between them and us? I shouldn't think it's a new idea ...

*Incidentally if you manage to read on you will also come across people who are talking perfect sense for and against the proposal in a balanced way. Thank goodness!

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