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Outrage as council bans apostrophes on street signs

by on07 May 2024

It avoids computer glitches

North Yorkshire council has sparked fury among residents and language experts after declaring it would scrap apostrophes on street signs to sidestep issues with computer systems.

After careful consideration, the council is axing the punctuation mark, citing its potential to disrupt geographical databases. It stated that all new street signs would be made without an apostrophe, regardless of whether they were used in the past. Some locals voiced concerns about axing the apostrophes, warning it could lead to "everything going downhill" it "being the thin end of the wedge" and send the country to the dogs." They called on the authorities to keep them.

Sam, a postie in Harrogate, a spa town in North Yorkshire, told the Beeb that signs lacking an apostrophe—like the nearby St Mary's Walk sign that had been put up in the town without one—got her goat.

"I walk past the sign every day, and it gets my goat to see incorrect grammar or punctuation," she fumed. Although the updated St Mary's sign lacked an apostrophe, someone had daubed an apostrophe back onto the sign with a marker pen, which the ex-teacher hailed as "brilliant."

She suggested the council was setting a poor example to kids who spend ages learning the basics of grammar only to see it not being used properly on street signs.

Dr Ellie Rye, a lecturer in English language and linguistics at the University of York, pointed out that apostrophes are a relatively recent addition to our writing and, often, context allows people to grasp their meaning.

"If I say I live on St Mary's Walk, we're expecting a street name or an address of some kind," she explained. She said the change would matter to people who spend a lot of time teaching how to write English but was "less important in [verbal] communication," she said.


Last modified on 07 May 2024
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