I refer of course to the decision by Tory-controlled Mid Devon District Council to abolish the apostrophe.
You can tell how bad things are when even a local greengrocer complains: “The apostrophe is part of the English language so I think it should be upheld.”
The North Devon Journal reports that the rot has spread to the neighbouring district councils of Torridge and North Devon.
The Plain English Campaign can be trusted to judge what constitutes clear language:
Steve Jenner, from the Plain English Campaign, said punctuation, including the apostrophe, was one of the basic rules of language and he described the council’s decision as “nonsensical”.The council’s justification is bizarre:
A statement from the council said: “Our proposed policy on street naming and numbering covers a whole host of practical issues, many of which are aimed at reducing potential confusion over street names.”
However, it declined to comment further and did not elaborate on who might be confused by the use of correct punctuation.The Guardian’s report gives a good indication of not only the Tory council leader’s grasp of good English but also his IQ:
Council leader Peter Hare-Scott (with a hyphen), was not amused by the attention his authority was receiving.
He said it had long been practice for apostrophes to be left off signs. What was happening now was that the authority was discussing a policy that formalised the arrangement.
“There’s not really a story here,” he said. “Doesn’t the Plain English Society have better things to do like improving grammar in schools?” Asked if he was a fan of the apostrophe personally, he replied simply: “I am a fan of good English.”Does this story have any serious political consequences? It does when the Tories lose the support of both the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. The Telegraph offers its readers one crumb of comfort, though:
The policy may be greeted with alarm by residents of a neighbouring Devon district – but Torridge council said it had no plans to abolish the exclamation mark from the village of Westward Ho!