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June 03, 2013

Linguistics

Do we need the apostrophe?

Teaching-English-in-UK"Writing on the OUP blog, Oxford don Simon Horobin recently pondered the confusion and occasional condemnation surrounding use of the humble apostrophe.

The recent decision by Devon County Council to drop the apostrophe from its road signs was met with dismay and anger by those concerned about the preservation of linguistic standards. Lucy Mangan, writing in The Guardian, branded it an ‘Apostrophe Catastrophe’ which ‘captures in microcosm the kind of thinking that pervades our government, our institutions, our times’, drawing parallels with the government’s handling of the banking crisis, binge-drinking and sexual assault.

Similar prophecies of doom followed the decision by the bookseller Waterstones to drop the apostrophe from its shop names. Writing in the Daily Mail, Lindsay Johns lamented this wanton disposal of the rules of grammar which enable us to communicate. But is the preservation of the apostrophe really so crucial to the well-being of our society? Would consigning the apostrophe to the dustbin really threaten the future of our language as a means of communication?

Read the full blog post on OUPblog.

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