Creativity: An excess of apostrophes

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The Independent Online
WHAT to do with those surplus greengrocers' apostrophes? 'Declare a National Apostrophe Week,' advises Peter Cowan. 'Send all unwanted or unneeded apostrophes to the Department of Education for redistribution to schools as inverted commas, commas and practice apostrophes for English classes.'

Mollie Caird says: 'They look charming hung from earlobes. Or two fitted together can supply the missing 'e' in grapfruit.' Mollie Whittemore includes a sample to show how Liberty uses them to decorate fabric.

More violently, John and Judith Spurway recommend them to James Bond 'to scatter from his Aston Martin and punctuate the tyres of following vehicles'.

Mark Walmsley traces the redundant apostrophe crisis back to the 'many inverted commas left over from the boring trend of 'post-modern ironic detachment' which entertained certain cultural pundits for a while last year'. He uses his as artificial fleas to nobble rival Yorkshire terriers at dog shows.

Paul McHugh suggests 'Mickey Mouse ears for bacteria carnivals', or 'commas instead of currants when making spotted dick for a literary luncheon'.

D M Guest has tried to find apostrophes on his greengrocer's stall, but spotted only apricot's, apple's, avocado's, artichoke's, aubergine's and a fleeting glimpse of some asparagus'.

Geoffrey Langley says: 'I will join in no attack on greengrocer's for their use of apostrophe's' However, he does suggest they might be turned into inverted commas 'in what Gowers calls 'the facetious sense', around such phrases as 'fresh picked' and 'crisp and juicy'.'

Paul Clark suggests using them as false tears for crocodiles. Liz Carrey says that if redeployed as commas, they could be very useful in legal documents and the British Medical Journal. Field McIntyre proposes using them as replacement tadpoles when a heron has eaten the year's crop. Steph and Paul have the same idea and point out that it would placate the animal rights movement by avoiding subsequent frog vivisections.

Jasper Fforde tells us: 'Britain's apostrophe surplus is well-known on the world punctuation market. Last year at the International Punctuation Exchange in Istanbul, buyers from Australia, a country suffering acute apostrophe shortage (due mainly to the oft expressed greeting 'G'day') offered to buy all of Britain's stock.

'However, since Oz is not a member of the EC, Spain argued that it had first call on our spare apostrophes, in order to make up its shortage of question marks which are used at the rate of two per sentence.

'Since most question marks are in use at the moment because of increased world uncertainty, the shortfall had been made up by flopping cedillas bought from the French and then shaving off the tail of our apostrophes to make the full stop. The Germans already do something similar for their umlauts.'

Mr Fforde informs us Australia, disappointed but not beaten, now make apostrophes in Darwin by sawing quotation marks in half. A similar plant in Toulouse welds grave and acute accents together to make circumflexes.

Suzanne Smith writes to tell us that she has beautiful ear-lobes. She also tells us that 'apostrophe' was used in the Independent crossword not long ago as an answer to the clue: 'Mark showing reduction is confusing to a shopper'. Stuart Cockerill is on holiday.

Next week we'll tell you what to do with venetian blinds. Meanwhile, you might like to think about pairs of scissors. Any novel ideas for their use should be sent to: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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