Birmingham hates apostrophes

Birmingham looks to be doing an odd thing:

LONDON – On the streets of Birmingham, the queen’s English is now the queens English.

England’s second-largest city has decided to drop apostrophes from all its street signs, saying they’re confusing and old-fashioned.

LONDON – here in the outskirts of Birmingham, I am a fan of apostrophes. They seem to be important in the communication of meaning: my sister’s friend’s investments, and all that. They don’t seem ‘old-fashioned’ any more than words, or trees. What’s the reasoning?

Councilor Martin Mullaney, who heads the city’s transport scrutiny committee, said he decided to act after yet another interminable debate into whether “Kings Heath,” a Birmingham suburb, should be rewritten with an apostrophe.

“I had to make a final decision on this,” he said Friday. “We keep debating apostrophes in meetings and we have other things to do.”

Mullaney hopes to stop public campaigns to restore the apostrophe that would tell passers-by that “Kings Heath” was once owned by the monarchy.

Not bad. I was not expecting that. I doubt it’ll do anything to stop people who get worked up over such things as royal possessions, but if something so silly is wasting time at meetings, that’s a definite point to you. Well done! Do go on.

“Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed,” he said. “More importantly, they confuse people. If I want to go to a restaurant, I don’t want to have an A-level (high school diploma) in English to find it.”

I wish to refer the honorable councilor to a venerable institution I feel is appropriate in the circumstances.

I also feel I can help: the restaurant you’re after has recognisable yellow arches.

Mullaney claimed apostrophes confuse GPS units, including those used by emergency services.

Righto. I once saw a policeman get distracted by a badger, so quite frankly sod badgers.

It’s a good job you’re only talking to the Associated Press! They only report dry facts – it’s not like they’re going to put any effort into debunking your story.

But Jenny Hodge, a spokeswoman for satellite navigation equipment manufacturer TomTom, said most users of their systems navigate through Britain’s sometime confusing streets by entering a postal code rather than a street address.

She said that if someone preferred to use a street name — with or without an apostrophe — punctuation wouldn’t be an issue. By the time the first few letters of the street were entered, a list of matching choices would pop up and the user would choose the destination.

A test by The Associated Press backed this up. In a search for London street St. Mary’s Road, the name popped up before the apostrophe had to be entered.

There is no national body responsible for regulating place names in Britain. Its main mapping agency,Ordnance Survey, which provides data for emergency services, takes its information from local governmentsand each one is free to decide how it uses punctuation.

“If councils decide to add or drop an apostrophe to a place name, we just update our data,” said Ordnance Survey spokesman Paul Beauchamp. “We’ve never heard of any confusion arising from their existence.”

I’m going to take a moment now, then read that again. Ahhh.

It seems that Birmingham officials have been taking a hammer to grammar for years, quietly dropping apostrophes from street signs since the 1950s. Through the decades, residents have frequently launched spirited campaigns to restore the missing punctuation to signs denoting such places as “St. Pauls Square” or “Acocks Green.”

LAST-MINUTE SAVE. I am now energised. I feel this is important. The other way, though: please, please, please rename it Acock’s Green.