One of my secret (or maybe not-so-secret) nerdy passions is grammar. I’m no expert on grammar rules, but I like to think I generally get things right. Over the last few weeks, there have been a bunch of mainstream news articles that have brought up some grammar issues that caught my attention.
In Birmingham, England, city officials have decided to ban apostrophes from all street signs in the city because they are confusing and old-fashioned. Councilor Martin Mullaney, the head of the transport scrutiny committee (what does that even mean?) said,
We keep debating apostrophes in meetings and we have other things to do. … Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed… More importantly, they confuse people. If I want to go to a restaurant, I don’t want to have an A-level (high school diploma) in English to find it.
I can’t quite see how proper use of possessives can be confusing, but to each his own, I suppose.
Another article I found linked from The “Blog” of “Necessary” Quotation Marks discusses the growing trend of blogs and everyday people devoted to pointing out grammar flaws. The article goes on to suggest that the stress of recent current events has made people more likely to cling to things the can control, like grammar. Clinical psychologist Pauline Wallin explained, ”
When people are under stress, they have less tolerance for minor frustrations… Think of the harried mother rushing around trying to get her kids ready for school who loses it when one of them can’t find his homework. Spelling is something concrete and has a definite right answer so it does make you feel temporarily in control.
I don’t know for sure if I agree with that — there were plenty of grammar-loving people pointing out verbal atrocities before the economy tanked. Lynn Truss wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves in 2004 (I think), SPOGG (blog the Society for the Promortion of Good Grammar) has been around for at least that long, and I’ve been harassing my friends about the use of the possessive since I took an intense grammar class in 2006. Go Grammar!