Apostrophe catastrophe for city's street signs

Matthew Cooper
Friday 30 January 2009 01:00 GMT

Birmingham City Council has ruled that apostrophes should not feature on its road and street signs. The decision, which the authority hopes will draw a line under decades of dispute, follows a review to establish whether the possessive punctuation mark should be restored to place names such as Kings Norton and Druids Heath.

Martin Mullaney, who leads the city's transportation scrutiny committee, conceded that the new city-wide policy would upset a lot of residents.

But he stressed that the decision not to reintroduce apostrophes, which began to disappear from Birmingham's road signs in the 1950s, had been taken in light of several factors, including the need for consistency and the cost of changing existing signage.

"We are constantly getting residents asking for apostrophes to be put back in and as a council we have got to make a decision one way or another," Mr Mullaney said.

"Both the Plain English Society and the Plain Language Commission have said that there is no rule in Britain with regards to possessive apostrophes in place names."

Mr Mullaney's view was not shared by John Richards, the founder and chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society: "It seems retrograde, dumbing down really. It is setting a very bad example."

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