Apostrophe ambiguity

On Twitter this morning, Crispian Jago wrote: “Just listened to Dawkins talk at the NSS conference.” My reaction to this was that I didn’t know there was an NSS conference today. It took a few moments to realise that Crispian hadn’t been listening to Dawkins speak, he’d been listening to (a recording of) Dawkins’ speech.

It doesn’t bother me much when people leave possessive apostrophes out, and I ignore the Trussists who claim that every error leads to ambiguity, but this was a case where the missing apostrophe did make a difference.

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The Birmingham Position

Now that I’ve started supporting the abolition of the possessive apostrophe, I was delighted to discover that my council has been standing up for this position against the grammar nazis. Although I don’t like seeing signs saying “Kings Norton” or “St Pauls Square”, the fact is that most people don’t notice, care or understand, and it’s about time we stopped kidding ourselves that they ought to.

I admired Councillor Martin Mullaney for going on the radio and putting the council’s position clearly and calmly, in the face of overblown attacks from the likes of John Richards. One of the latter’s silliest remarks was “It’s a simple rule and so many people get it wrong.”