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!

Snow falling on Cedars by David Guterson

This came highly recommended and is really involving. It's taken me a while to read, even though it's not particularly long. The descriptions really put you on San Piedro Island and you feel as though you know all the inhabitants ... although obviously I don't, because it's yet to be revealed just what happened when Carl died. I am a fan of the courtroom drama, and this has courtroom scenes, plus flashbacks to the war and to the experience of Japanese Americans in particular. I love the title, reminiscent of haiku writing. I will finish it tonight, and then I'd better read some shorter books to catch up with my book-a-day aim. I'll be pleased if I can get to the end of the year with 365 books read: even if some took a few days, I'll let myself off the hook if on other days I've read 2 shorter books!