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  • Bob McCalden

December 2023 Newsletter

Dear members,

Welcome to the December newsletter from the Apostrophe Protection Society! As always, thank you for being members and for supporting the APS. Your membership means a lot to me, so thank you again.

I noted in the previous newsletter in October that I might be a little tied up in our house move for a few weeks, and this was definitely an understatement. The move itself went very well (though involving a large amount of mental and practical effort), but I had underestimated the amount of other stuff that would take priority for a few weeks after that actual move. I'll put the move down as one of the two major factors that have delayed the production of this next newsletter. The other major factor, and I'll explain the background to it in a moment, was a massive amount of media activity about apostrophes (one in particular) that was responsible for several newspaper and radio interviews with me, and an amazing influx of emails and new members. But we're now in the middle of December, things have calmed down on both the house and apostrophe fronts, and I can focus on writing this newsletter.

The unexpected, but welcome, media excitement came from a short feel-good story about a road sign in a village in Hampshire, England, that had lost its apostrophe. The local city council (Winchester) had decided that apostrophes were no longer to be used in road names, and when the road sign for St Mary's Terrace in the village of Twyford was given a refresh in late 2022, the new sign was delivered without its apostrophe - just St Marys Terrace. The local council said they'd taken guidance, and omitting the historic apostrophe would make life easier for delivery drivers and the emergency services. They said that apostrophes could confuse computer systems and they'd be better omitted. The council had clearly not expected one local resident objecting to this in such a determined way. A retired teacher, Oliver Gray, expressed his discontent to the council and, after much arguing, and the support of his local councillor, the council finally reversed its position. Another enterprising local councillor found the original sign that had been dumped on a scrap heap, had it properly sand-blasted clean and re-painted, and it was restored to its rightful place. As a lovely final touch, Oliver Gray was given the honour of repainting the missing apostrophe on the sign.

As a story, it could have been covered by just the local paper, and then faded into obscurity. But more and more of the British national newspapers picked up the story, as did a number outside the UK, and it rapidly turned into a feel-good news story that became a headline in its own right. The Guardian newspaper in the UK contacted me for my thoughts on the story, and the resulting article had several quotes from me and some great publicity for the APS. I was also contacted by several radio stations in the UK and Ireland, and was interviewed more broadly about the APS and the importance of apostrophes, even managing to get a brief interview statement on the evening news programme on BBC Radio 4. The full text of the newspaper article with my various quotes, and an audio clip of one of the radio interviews are also on the Blog pages. I'll post at least one of the other radio interviews and newspaper articles in the next day or two, so check back to read or hear those. Many of the newspaper articles also picked up on the APS connection, and some repeated my comments, including: "Getting rid of apostrophes from street names is a form of cultural vandalism. It’s like spelling it wrongly. You wouldn’t dream of spelling a street name wrongly but taking an apostrophe out is tantamount to just that.”

Mainly as a direct result of that missing (now reinstated) apostrophe, we had over 1000 new members join the APS in November. I'm a bit stunned, though very pleased, by that sudden influx. If you're one of that new intake, you've already had a quick "welcome" email from me, but I'll add another "welcome" to you all now. Thank you.

As I noted in one of my earlier newsletters, the subject of apostrophes in road names is one that I'm pursuing broadly across the UK. The Twyford story and its publicity should help to provide some background and precedent to the campaign, as will the added credibility to be had from over 3500 subscribed APS members. It's also given me some renewed enthusiasm for the campaign. I'll report on progress as it slowly progresses.

In addition to all those new members, I've been delighted by the influx of emails from members, and some very good photographic examples of apostrophe abuse. I will be adding those to the "Latest Examples" photo gallery on the website over the next few days. Pop over there periodically to see some real howlers! Please keep sending me your photographic examples; I don't promise to include them all, but I will reply to each and every email that you send me (sometimes that takes a bit longer than I might like, but I will reply).

Following the additional subtopics that I added to the "Apostrophe Use" page on the website last time, I've also added an item on possessive pronouns as these seem to trip people up. I've received a couple of suggestions from members over the last month, so I'll aim to publish these soon. If there are any aspects that you would like to see clarified, please let me know. I would like the page to be a pretty definitive guide, so let me know what else you think it needs.

This newsletter, and all the previous ones, are also published on the Blog page on the website. If you're reading this on that Blog page, and not receiving your own email copy, do please let me know. A small handful (less than 0.5%) of the 3500+ subscribed member email addresses get bounced back for one reason or another, so if one of those is yours I'd like to help correct it. Of course, if you're not yet a member, please join.

It just remains for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever festive event you may be celebrating.

Best wishes,




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