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Apostrophes in street names, again

[7 Feb 2014] Much rejoicing in the shires today, now that Cambridge City Council has reversed its decision to abolish apostrophes in street signs, on the supposed grounds that the errant tadpoles would cause confusion to the emergency services.

We’ve been here before, in Birmingham for example – see Pikestaff 23.

A spokesperson from the Good Grammar Company, close at hand in Cambridge, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying:

‘I know some people think apostrophes are superfluous but we really need them and I think it’s the first step on a slippery slope. If councils are getting rid of them, what kind of message does that give out to students at schools?’

Well, it sends the message that apostrophes aren’t necessary in the special case of street names – useful as they are elsewhere – because the name of the street is whatever collection of letters and spaces the councillors decide to call the street.

If they want to suck up to Iran and call it Xerxes Road after the ancient King of the Persians, why do we have to think of it as the road belonging to Xerxes and thus saddle ourselves with Xerxes’ Road? And do we really want Zeus’s Street and Princess’s Drive?

Same with streets named after saints, which have been causing difficulties for years because some of them have been given apostrophes and some not. It’s a particular problem in Cambridge, which has the colleges King’s, Queens’ and Christ’s and some nearby streets named accordingly. To cut through all the confusion, it’s best just to drop apostrophes from street names. (

See http://www.queens.cam.ac.uk/page-237 for Queens’’ very own apostrophe story – and yes, we may as well have that rarity, a double apostrophe, as the apostrophe story belongs to Queens’. [cont]

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