The Guardian has an article entitled
Good grammar saves lives – and rescues friendships
Despite the uproar it caused, local councils are still banishing apostrophes from street signs. But a single apostrophe can save utter humiliation
It is written by Gary Nunn, a journalist in Australia with no apparent linguistic qualifications. Well,
1) Does it need saying again? Apostrophes have nothing to do with grammar. They are punctuation marks or even, some say, the 27th letter of the alphabet.
2) The pronoun it in the subhead has no noun referent. The sentence should read: Despite the uproar caused by their decision … That is a grammatical mistake.
After relating an anecdote about how his neighbour knew that a text message wasn’t genuine because it contained your for you’re, the author concludes rather grandiosely:
A single apostrophe can prevent you from being ostracised in your own neighbourhood.
We then have
Good grammar saves lives, too. “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma” have two very different meanings: one an invitation, the other homicidal.
An old chestnut that has nothing to do with grammar. And nothing to do with apostrophes.
But if we are going to be picky about commas, there is an extraneous comma in this sentence:
Oh how sick is [sic], the three-lettered bitchy Latin put-down that succinctly and snootily says “Don’t for one second think that was my error.”
The comma after [sic] apparently marks a pause in speech but the [sic] is a parenthesis, already marked at beginning and end by square brackets to indicate a pause. The base sentence is
Oh how sick is the three-lettered bitchy Latin put-down …
(NOTE: On rereading this post I see that the comma might be intended to mark an apposition. If so, it is correct. However, the presentation is clumsy. The brackets, which suggest an editorial insertion, should surely be replaced by inverted commas to indicate a quotation.)
There then follows a spectacular whinge about apostrophes with special reference to street name signs.
Birmingham, Mid Devon, Cambridge, East Staffordshire, East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire – all took the decision to remove apostrophes from street signs. You can imagine them, sat [sic] around like the parish council in the Vicar of Dibley, eating Marmite cheesecake and discussing the things that really matter to locals – such as spending money creating new, apostrophe-less signs.
Our grammar angel contacted all the local authorities that have abolished apostrophes and was told by Huntingdonshire that the decision ‘was made to aid clarity when using address names in search engines and sat navs’. That sounds fair enough to me but ‘Birmingham city council – Europe’s largest local authority – didn’t respond before the deadline.’
How rude of them! Or can one imagine them not sitting around eating Marmite cheesecake but in fact doing the things that really matter to locals and not spending taxpayers’ money on a petty query from a solipsistic journalist?
And shouldn’t our author refer to ‘the parish council in The Vicar of Dibley’ rather than ‘the parish council in the Vicar of Dibley’? Sometimes a capital letter can make the difference between the name of a sitcom and group sex.
(The Vicar of Dibley was a BBC sitcom featuring a woman Church of England vicar, Wikipedia.)