In the lanes of Devon, the signs aren't looking good for the apostrophe

Council plans to ban ‘confusing’ punctuation mark from new street names

There’s something about this sentence that Mid Devon District Council doesn’t like. Two things in fact. Apostrophes.

The local authority has outraged guardians of the English language by proposing to ban the punctuation mark from new street names – as one of a number of measures aimed at “reducing potential confusion”.

Quite what is confusing about an apostrophe was not obvious to residents yesterday, although the council has suggested that, when searching internet databases and co-ordinating responses to emergencies, “it’s useful to have everyone spelling things in the same way”.

But punctuation pedants are far from convinced.

“What are they doing?!” demanded Steve Jenner, of the Plain English Campaign.

“Language is an agreed set of rules and if we stop agreeing that’s the case it’s going to cause real problems. It could actually be dangerous. It could cause situations where people are misunderstood. Where does this stop? Do we get rid of commas and full stops because they’re inconvenient?”

John Richards, chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, pointed out that regardless of the practical application of the apostrophe, Mid Devon Council had a responsibility to uphold grammatical standards.

“There are plenty of schools in Mid Devon where teachers are trying to teach people the English language,” he said. “Those pupils are now quite within their rights to say ‘Who bothers about apostrophes? The council doesn’t.’”

Opinions among residents of Bakers View in Newton Abbot – apparently a street that has fallen victim to the council’s deep-rooted anti-apostrophe tendencies – ranged from outrage to stoic acquiescence.

“I never thought about it and it doesn’t worry me at all,” one of them told the BBC. But Mr Jenner, a local, disagrees. “Bakers View should be Baker’s,” he said. “In 100 years’ time when historians come to investigate why it’s called Bakers View they’ll be looking for somewhere where 30 guys were making bread.”

Explaining the rationale behind the plans, a council spokesman said: “Our proposed policy on street naming and numbering covers a whole host of practical issues, many of which are aimed at reducing potential confusion over street names.”

Among the “host of practical issues” are other measures aimed at regulating the naming of new streets including one that stipulates that “street names that may be open to re-interpretation by graffiti or shortening of the name shall be avoided.”

So no Cockburn Roads or anything like that.

The council insists, however, that no road signs will be changed and the three street names in the area which do have apostrophes – Beck’s Square and Blundell’s Avenue in Tiverton and St George’s Well in Cullompton – will keep their punctuation marks.

The council added that shunning apostrophes had been de facto policy for years and was only now being made official – with the matter going before cabinet on 28 March. Councils in Birmingham and Wakefield have previously proposed similar bans.

Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Java Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

SAP Functional Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £45,000 - £55,000.

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Functional ...

Javascript Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn