Sunday, February 01, 2009

Linguistic Patrol: Where Great Britain Used To Be

...One major city has been waging covert war against the apostrophe for fifty-odd years -- and have now brought the battle into the open!

They're claiming this is for reasons of modern efficiency but y'know what? It's no coincidence that the poor little apostrophe is the pointiest character on a modern keyboard. Think about it -- Asterisk? * The points all point in! The exclamation point has that dot, like the blunt end of a fencing foil. The caret or French quote? <> Too obtuse! And commas are bent. Nope, it's the apostrophe you dassn't run with an' prolly -- if you live in the UK -- shouldn't have at all. Why, you might hurt someone. They'll eventually have to hold spellin' bees in Belgium or Switzerland, mark my words.
* What to risk? H'm, that explains why it's all clenched-up like.


Anonymous said...

Glad the Bri'ish have their priorities straight.

Anonymous said...

Well you can just blame computer programmers for this one. Specifically, punch-card jogglers of the mid-60's. In the Dark Age (which apparently ended just as I retired) a grammatical full-stop (a "mense" as a literalist renders it), comma, apostrophe, single-letter directional abbrev. which used to be called the Four Letters Which May Not Be Indexed, or old-form short version of throughfare type such as DRIVE, or on a bad day MEWS, would send proto-GIS search engines off into a black datahole.

In the old Post Office Department days, POD was still the compelling authority in place naming. In those days, they undertook to standardize spellings, to make junk mail possible, and ultimately you transom peekable and all points nukable.

This resulted in all US possessive names losing either their apostrophe or their "s." The result was tragicomic, and of course moot just one generation of data storage capability later. This was the same benture that had Pittsgurgh losing, and then reclaiming, its 'aitch.'

The moral of the story is that names without apostrophes 'look modern,' in an old-modern kind of way, and we should never allow computer engineers to set the shape of our language and culture. Now you carry that message to Gates's(SWIDT) minions.

George said...

If dropping the apostrophe also means that the great unwashed ignoramus illiterates will stop pluralizing nouns by adding "'s" ... I'm happy. I acknowledge that English is an ever growing and expanding language. Change will take place and sometimes that means we lose what was common in the past. (You remember having to read Chaucer's Tales in his English, don't you? Miss that? I thought so!)

Still, memories will always linger of (the formerly) Great Britain.


Anonymous said...

"Bifel that, in that seasoun, on a day

In Southwark, at the Tabard, as I lay..."

What, you guys only knew the first fourteen lines?
(Old English major joke, for weel he wot a womman hath no beerd).

"I" "hardly" "think" one can "change the abuse habits" of "the great unwashed" just by "reforming" the usage of "sign painters." "But it's a start."

The, shotgun method, of comma usage, wherein one, prepares the text, then stands back, and lets fly, with commas, is also, ripe, for the plucking. And synopsis...for emphasis...cannot be ignored...

Howsabout we up the voltage on SpelChek, and put little contact pads on the keys of all on-line posters?

Another day, I'll go into Ace of Spades' Latin. Mirabile dictu.