back to article Birmingham drops the possessive apostrophe

Defenders of correct punctuation should look away now, because Birmingham City Council has voted to drop possessive apostrophes from its street signs, in the process risking a "pedants' revolt' as Middle England rises to combat this latest menace to our beloved mother tongue. According to the Times, the decision came following " …

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Happy

Little pots of paint ...

will be carried by teachers and pedants to re-insert the apostrophie's.

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Heart

It would be even more tragic

if the ambulance couldn't find your street because you'd correctly used the possessive apostrophe.

Won't somebody think of the children?!

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Emergency Services

Ia anyone seriously suggesting that the energency services might not find "King's Road" when they would find "Kings Road"? If that's true, then presumably if the operator types "kings road" you'd be stuffed as well. Get a grip. Or a better search tool.

O

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Anonymous Coward

Wait

People actually care about this? Actual, living, breathing members of society? Not fictitious people made up by the Daily Fail? This is what is wrong with this country.

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Ash

Proper Noun

I never thought of Acocks being possive... I thought it was the full name, the same as anybody with the surname Stevens or Jones.

Mountain out of Molehill, anyone?

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IT Angle

Radio 4: 1, Martin Mullaney: 0

Martin's appearance on Radio 4's PM yesterday did him no favours; although he actually talks sense quite a lot of the time (even on his Youtube appearances), his advisers should have thought about teaching him to pronounce the 'a' in apostrophe (like the a in apocalypse, if it helps you, Martin) before appearing in Pedants Corner on BBC R4. Messenger or message, which is more important?

His final point on R4 was that a national policy on the subject would be nice. There's some truth in this; talking about important issues like that might keep Our Leaders from more dangerous things like using our money and our children's money to prop up a collapsed and corrupt bancasino system. Vince Cable for PM, now.

www.transitiontowns.org

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Unhappy

Thank goodness

Councillors don't program; they'd obviously have no respect for syntax at all.

Isn't it simple? there's the right and the wrong way of spelling something.

"This view will, I know, upset a lot of residents." ...Arrogant bastards; Who elected them, eh?

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Alert

The Opposite

We've got the opposite problem where I live - stray full-stops.

Obviously whoever orders the signs doesn't know the difference between a contraction and an abbreviation.

Perhaps the residents of Birmingham could recycle our full-stops in to apostrophes?

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Tragic

No, Mr Mullaney, it would be tragic if the emergency services used software that didn't strip punctuation when searching for place names. Admit it, you are using the IT angle as an excuse for justifying a position that you know is going to upset the council tax payers. Your problem now is going to be performing a U-turn with nobody noticing.

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Ian

Long finished issue

I've lived adjacent to them for more than forty years, and Kings Norton and Kings Heath have alway s been spelt without an apostrophe. The thought that Acocks Green (and would that be Acock's or Acocks', eh?) or Kitts Green might need an apostrophe has never even occurred to me, and I do grammatical pedantry with the worst of them. Druids Heath, Highters Heath...

Here's a photograph of Kings Heath station in 1957; fifty years ago the apostrophe was gone.

http://www.photobydjnorton.com/RailwayPictures/KingsHeathBoxClr.jpg

And more fun, are we now to worry about introducing a space into Kingstanding?

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Bronze badge

Dangerous Precedent

I note that they are saying that since the King no longer owns the Heath the name should change. Well according to a quick search, Birmingham either means the home on the hill by the heath or the home of the sons of Breme. Perhaps they would like to prove that either of these meanings are still valid or alternatively come up with a new name for their metropolis ( I could suggest a few).

Do they really think that if the conditions which gave the original meaning change then the name is not valid? Does that mean that only sons of Jack can have the surname of Jackson? Would they perhaps like to take on names such as Kermit, Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggie because they certainly are portraying themselves as Muppets.

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Coat

Apostrophe schmapostrophe.

If Acocks Green, you've got bigger problems than punctuation.

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Stop

Couldn't resist...

In the first paragraph of this article, an apostrophe is incorrectly used to terminate the quote "pedants' revolt" instead of inverted commas. Coincidence or a deliberate mistake?

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So the council cannot do what google can?

FTA: However, there is a (sort of) plausible reason for the move. As the Times notes, Oz in 2001 expunged apostrophes from place names "for the sake of consistency in the databases used by the emergency services". Mullaney rested his case with: “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

Type in King's Heath in google; Type in Kings' Heath in google: it finds Kings Heath in (of all places Birmingham)! The argument is therefore fallacious and even silly.

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Stop

Don't get sick in Brum.......

......if the system can't handle such a close match as gs/g's

Or maybe the developer never heard of escaping text inputs and apostrophes mess with the SQL

Still it's heartwarming to know that our elected representatives have dealt with all those pressing social need issues and the impact of the economic crisis so well that they have time for this nonsense.

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Tense Grammatical Debate

"tense grammatical debate"......? In Birmingham.......?!

Surely, a prerequisitie of being able to conduct a tense grammatical debate would be possessing the power to speak coherently in the first place....

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Anonymous Coward

John Richards

Speaking of examples, perhaps Mr. Richards should lead by one. His ancestors dropped the possessive apostrophe from his name (possibly to facilitate punch cards with no apostrophe for the census?) Of course, the first of his dynasty might have been "John Richard Richard Jones" and shortened it to the plural "John Richards" to save time, but that seems less likely than "John Richard's son." In these days of Unicode databases, he can enjoy much more freedom with his name. Maybe he could band together with the parents of "4real."

That said, this all seems pretty silly, and completely suitable for Friday afternoon Reg content.

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Joke

S'only fair

Most Brummies drop the "H" from "King's Heath" anyway...

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Bronze badge

lame reason

'As the Times notes, Oz in 2001 expunged apostrophes from place names "for the sake of consistency in the databases used by the emergency services". Mullaney rested his case with: “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.” ®'

...or not find it if you do use the possessive apostrophe. Any half-way decent navigation software will work with and without the apostrophe. The real world just isn't that consistent. Even Transport for London, A-Z and the Ordnance Survey can't agree on the use of possessives in things like station names.

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Happy

"pedants' revolt'

"pedants' revolt' !?!

What sort of punctuation do you call that!

"pedants' revolt", with a terminating double quotation mark rather than an apostrophe after "revolt", surely?

(From the body text and not the subheading, before anyone anyone wades in with their size twelves.)

This has been a pedant's revolt, as there's only one of me*.

*"Thank f*ck for that", as a riposte, is too obvious and will not be considered funny.

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Joke

If it's not the King's Heath..

...then whose heath is it? Name it after them. I think "United Reality and Strip Mining Inc's Heath" has a nice ring to it.

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Flame

Surely

It should be (for instance) 'Kings' Heath' not, as suggested, 'King's Heath' since I always understood that the s' was the possesive, whereas the 's was a contraction of is.

I'm sure that's the case.

Anyway, let the flames commence.

ttfn

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I get it.

Now I understand why these massive rises in Council Tax are necessary! All is clear at last.

Can we now expect next year's Council Tax increase to be even bigger to give our overlords the wherewithal to tackle those rogue colons and semicolons?

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Stupidity

“It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

It would also be tragic if they went ahead and couldn't find your street because you *did* use the apostrophe. How about they strip out the punctuation when comparing against their database then you don't die as a result of your own poor grammar or as a result of this scheme going ahead...

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Anonymous Coward

It's all in the usage

Well, I can kind of see their point (not full stop! :-D): the possessive part of the original name is now rather questionable, and for the sake of consistency in databases and whatnots it probably makes sense to wave them bye bye in *this instance*. I mean it's not as if it's the first time ever place names have evolved from an original meaning to something similar but not quite the same...?!

And note that they're not proposing to remove them from EVERYTHING the council does, just place names. Pedants get a life.

Wow how pedantic am I posting a comment on such a trivial item??

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Joe

Let battle commence

"apple's for £1" saw that this morning....ARRRRRRRRRGH

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Joke

Reminds me of an historical joke...

Q: "Who was the leader of the Pedants' Revolt?"

A: "Which Tyler."

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Flame

Tragic - if we made stuff up for dramatic effect

"It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe"

Yeah, right - and Australia is covered in nearly identically named streets in the same town? I think not. And what GPS system counts the apostrophe when doing lookups? None of course. I wonder why...

Far more likely they'll get right street, wrong town. Lots of towns have a High Street and a London Road for instance, how DO the emergency services manage ? Its a wonder we've not all died already.

This is a piece of chocolate coated FUD.

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Anonymous Coward

Shirley...

... by making the singular possessive apostrophe redundant, the possessors are now plural ("Kings" and "Acocks")?

In other words, the three examples should now in fact be Kings' Heath, Kings' Norton and Acocks' Green - which for the apostrophically challenged, could be even worse.

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Stop

As a Birmingham resident

I would (very weakly) prefer the apostrophies to be there rather than not, but it's not something that bothers me.

As for databases and so on, just because the road signs have punctuation (or not), what bearing does that have on databases? Surely the dbase should be apostrophe-less regardless of whether the road signs have them or not?

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Flame

What?

“It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

That is most ignorant excuse I have ever heard. They should fire whoever programmed their systems not to search for all possible combinations, with or without apostrophe, and other permutations.

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Anonymous Coward

Their Children

are these teachers making the two back beast like bunnies on viagra?

Shirley, that should be their pupils. And then you could have had the play on words with seeing and the signs.

Yes, I am a little annoyed my big endian, little endian, and rot13 comments have been censored by the Register, for dross on the apostrophe.

We don't even have an apostrophe on a standard keyboard, we just have the bastardised single quote.

Watch this post get censored :) &#apos; yes include some small nugget of tech humour and off to the great big /dev/null in the sky with you.

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Coat

Somebody's got to say it ...

That would be, er, John Richard's, then?

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Happy

Tragedy, databases, possessive apostrophes and the ambulance service

<brr> <brrr-brr> Hello, 999 emergency services, which service do you require?

>> Ambulance, please

Connecting you ... <brr> Hello, ambulance service. What address requires an ambulance?

>> I'm at 34, King's Drop Table, Birmingham. ...

Thanks, we'll dispatch an ambulance now, it'll be there in ... err... hold on.... sorry, something seems to have gone wrong with the computer....

(apologies to xkcd)

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Historically correct!

This is actually historically correct. You won't see any apostrophes in any ancient or medieval Germanic languages, or in Middle English. Why would you put an apostrophe between a noun and its case ending?

I believe the apostrophe was added by folk-etymologists in the 16th century.

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Sam

Give me strength

Wankers'

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Anonymous Coward

wow

I'm Kinda in agreement, and I never thought I would be. I think that as it is now a Name and not a description it is correct.

If it were on the map as 'Norton' and owned by the King and known as 'King's Norton' then fine it is correct until it becomes 'Kings Norton' on the map, then its just a name, and is no longer a description of possession.

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Paris Hilton

Sounds like a bad excuse

Sounds like he couldn't do the grammar and then made up a series of ever more convoluted excuses that have now become policy. Idiot.

Paris, because she knows where to put the '.

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Please...

Emergency services fooled by apostrophes? That's someone making up scary stories to what amounts to a meaningless and arbitrary decision. Matching on this kind of thing is far, far looser than would be lost by the difference between "King's Heath" and "Kings Heath". It would probably stil find the same place given "Kinsey Heap".

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Kings aiith

This comes as no surprise at all.

But then again, if I were to see video footage of Birmingham city council smearing their badly punctuated signs with their own shit, and dancing around them , screaming and grunting, it would come as no surprise.

However, that would not make it right. The apostrophe is there for good reason, and a million realpolitik, anti-elitism arguments spouted in ugly rustic accents will not change that.

We need to stop anti-intellectualism in its tracks. A pity that organisations, such as the BBC , which once might have been counted upon to take a paternalistic attitude to the maintenance of good standards regarding English language, have instead fallen under the spell of the markets, and chase ratings with Saturday night reality drivel.

Very sad.

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(Written by Reg staff)

self-awareness fail

>...Daily Fail?

>This is what is wrong with this country.

Hahahahahahaaa!

Ha!

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IT Angle

Interesting new rule

So the honourable council has invented the "once possession is lost you have to hand in the apostrophe" grammar rule. Interesting:

Hence it's the kings ex-wife, and the kings wife (after female suffrage) or the king's wife (before feminism and all that nonsense) depending on the time period the sentence is framed in.

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Er

999 Operator: "Does your street belong to, figuratively, the King?"

Dying person: "I've been shitting stabbed, just send an ambulance to S74 88ED!"

Thin end of the wedge of ignorance.

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

More dumbing down, as those incapable of getting it right at school, gain employment in positions of power. What image does it give of us here in the UK to the rest of the world ?

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(Written by Reg staff)

oh God must I

It's single quote marks because that is Reg house style for subheads. There's only one apostrophe there, correctly placed after 'pedants', to denote collective possession.

Now I am leaving this thread and never coming back. Although actually I must say street names are one thing I don't give that much of a fuck about when it comes to apostrophes. This is what living in London does to you - even King's/Kings Cross can't be consistent, and so for some reason that part of my pedantry has just... died. It's just as well, I need a break from it sometimes.

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Anonymous Coward

London too

Barons Court?

Anyway, who cares about Acock. Names are just identification tags in

daily life. Understanding the story of a name is nice for historians,

but I never knew the story of the name of Acocks Green for the 30

years I lived close by, and nor do I really care.

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Silver badge

Bah

Not half so tragic as the software programmers not knowing how to parse the input and escape any rogue apostrophes *before* submitting a query.

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Brand news

This is hardly new, I lived in sunny Brum back in the 1990's and "Browns Green" was unapostrophed near my old digs. That sign itself was a fine bit of cast iron that I guess was pretty old even then. Possessive apostrophes surely only work in the case of possession, as the council point out this is redundant in the current case with much of Brum's place names. We should demand all place names ending with an old English possesive term to have an apostrophe put back, Bols'ton, Brixs'ton, Brents'ford, Greens'ford. Or we could just accept that the language changes and stop being pedantic jerks.

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Les

Surely not

@Paul Murphy

King's <--- Belonging to one King, or indeed a contraction of "King is", as in "the King's here". Which is meant can generally be deduced from the context.

Kings' <--- Belonging to more than one King

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Alert

Surnames

Rather than blabber on... I like the apostrophe... it's been in my name for years, even on birth certificates and bank accounts and I'm not about to remove it for idiocracy's sake.

The apostrophe in my name signifies belonging/family of or son-of, in much the same way the Irish use O' at the start of many of their surnames. The Scandinavians use son at the end of theirs.

My name: Paul Isaac's

Don't let English grammar suffer at the hands of those that want to not understand or cast idle fears that poor SQL programmers can't cope with it.

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