Humble apostrophe to be saved in Devon council U-turn?
The humble apostrophe looks to have been saved from extinction after a council leader signalled a U-turn on plans to ban punctuation from new road signs.
Mid Devon District Council sparked fury among lovers of English last week with plans to expunge the apostrophe to avoid "confusion".
Guardians of the language, including lecturers, editors and proof readers called the move "contemptuous", "disrespectful" and "unhelpful" to teachers.
The Conservative authority immediately gained worldwide notoriety and was reported in the New York Times as having sparked a "grammar war".
It initially said it was simply looking to formalise a long-standing policy, at a meeting of councillors next week.
But in a turnaround yesterday, Tory leader Peter Hare-Scott said: "The convention not to use apostrophes when naming new streets has been in place since long before this administration took over.
"Personally I'm not happy about using English that's incorrect and don't find this acceptable.
"We are reviewing the situation and I shall be recommending to cabinet on 28 March that they amend the policy so that street names may indeed in future have apostrophes".
Officials said only three streets in the district currently carry the mark – Beck's Square and Blundell's Avenue, both in Tiverton, and St George's Well in Cullompton. The proposed new naming and numbering policy document states streets should not be given names "that may be open to re-interpretation by graffiti or shortening of the name shall be avoided".
It adds: "All punctuation, including apostrophes, shall be avoided."
The new policy originated in a report by the council's head of information technology and was subsequently supported by the policy discussion group.
The council's communications manager Andrew Lacey said the proposal to amend the list of street names in the district "gazetteer" had been "recommended" to cabinet for approval and must now face a vote.
John Richards, founder and chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, which has successfully forced the correction of signs with errors such as an offer to "print menu's", welcomed the reverse.
"If they have changed their mind then it is a good idea," Mr Richards said.
"It was very quick and just shows that pressure does work sometimes – they are to be praised as it is not often that councils change their mind."