The Apostrophiser


Nevermind Batman.

Nevermind Superman.

Here comes The Apostrophiser.

In the news recently was a man from Bristol who is crusading against grammar mistakes, in particular rogue apostrophes, by taking matters into his own hands and making the necessary corrections.

He calls himself a “grammar vigilante” and has gone so far as to create a device called The Apostrophiser (rather like a large Tippex mouse – though not shaped like one, though that would be cool) to remove unnecessary apostrophes.

He remains anonymous and makes these changes without the permission of the shop owners.  Throughout the course of the interview, some shop owners were interviewed; one didn’t notice anything different about his sign and the other did and was appreciative, surprisingly.

Although grammatical mistakes irk me, this guy is going to extremes. The amount of time and money he must have poured into his mission must be astounding. Not to mention the fact that he is not a loner but a family man. I wonder what his family think about his mission or are they in the dark too?  Also, what is it about Bristol that provokes anonymous community service? See also Banksy and his public art.  In fact, the narrator actually refers to him as “the Banksy of punctuation.”

Anyway, it got me thinking. Is spelling/grammar really so important in modern times?

Personally, I like my writing to be accurate. In particular, my spelling. I have always been proud of my spelling prowess but I am aware that given the complexities of the English language, I may not always write in a way that is grammatically correct. And then, there are regional differences. For example, people from Glasgow speak/write differently from people from Birmingham though we all speak the same language.

E.g “This needs to be checked.” – Glasgow/most of Scotland.

“This needs checking.” – Midlands

Neither are incorrect.  Both mean the same thing but are expressed differently. Both can be understood in the same way.

Spelling! Incorrect spelling irritates the hell out of me but in the age of technology, it doesn’t mean so much to others when a spell-checker or predictive text can be used.  People have a tendency to trust technology, not considering that a spell-checker is most likely to be in American-English (fine if you are in America) and that it won’t realise you have made a spelling mistake if you have used the wrong version of a word I.e there instead of their. One of the most common predictive text spelling mistakes I’ve seen is “defiantly” instead of “definitely.” However, the message is still readable.  Which returns me to my question of how important spelling and grammar is in modern times.  

For the purpose of every day communication, it probably doesn’t matter if spelling or grammatical mistakes are made as long as the message is legible.  Though the reliance on technology is not good and discourages thinking with a human brain.  In terms of education and continuing education (for example, teacher training) then it should be paramount that spelling and grammar are correct.  I’ve heard of teachers who cannot spell. Teachers teaching children should be teaching them right.  Just as a learner driver has to pass a driving test, teachers should have to demonstrate they can spell/use the correct grammar to a certain standard before being let loose in the classroom.  If children have the correct foundation, they will know when their iPhone spells defiantly instead of definitely.  These kids could be future scientists or inventors and while I’m not suggesting that poor spelling will stop them in their tracks, it could be the difference between them being chosen for a job and their rival, who practised better English and appears to be better educated, edging ahead.  Parents should play a part in this too or we are in danger of losing our language – or creating new dictionary entries for unconventional uses of words. Doing the best you can and doing it right is a matter of pride.  Mistakes will be inevitable but it’s easy to tell the difference between a genuine mistake and laziness.

Traditionally published material has passed through hands of proofreaders/editors etc. and can include mistakes when it has gone to print or been digitally published.  This would fall into the category of genuine mistakes which, although annoying to the reader, can likely be explained as a mistake by an author that has spent long hours staring at a screen, pouring his/her soul through their fingertips or an editor who has read numerous other manuscripts that day. These mistakes are few and far between.  The modern poor spelling/grammar epidemic unfortunately seems to be here to stay.

The Grammar Vigilante feels strongly about his mission and intends to continue on his quest but I’m just wondering how that actually helps. How does that actually teach the shop owner (or indeed the sign writer) that their sign (and idea of grammar rules) is incorrect? How does it teach the iPhone generation? How does it help the other businesses in the U.K. that display incorrect signs? Will a team of grammar vigilantes spring up brandishing apostrophisers to tackle the problem? Should we just accept that modern grammar is destined to remain and traditional rules will fall by the wayside? After all, Shakespeare created much of the English language that we use now but we do not use all of his words from 400 years ago – Boggler, swoltery, kickie-wickie.  Goodness knows why because they are great words.  Maybe in 400 years time the words I have written here will be obsolete as humans will be speaking in universal text tongue – YOLO, FFS, OMG, ROFL.

To conclude, I think it’s important to stay as faithful to our English language as we can in this country.  If individuals cannot spell or use the correct grammar in adulthood then perhaps it’s their own issue but in terms of business signs/adverts, businesses have a responsibility to ensure they are correct.  Publishers/sign writers should not be afraid to advise of corrections. After all, incorrect signs can become a source of amusement but the real intention is to advertise a legitimate business and gain custom.  Businesses would prefer custom to ridicule. Through its use internationally mutations will naturally occur in the English language but at home (where it’s our primary language) we can take more pride, teach ourselves properly and help our children in the process. And then maybe The Apostrophiser could take a night off and chill with his wife and kids, some snacks and a box set.

I’d love to know what others think of this.  Is it important for English spelling/grammar to be correct in public places?

Do you think who cares? It’s the modern age. Conventional rules are dead.

Feel free to comment 🙂


Sources used

BBC 4 – The Apostrophiser

The Shakespeare Standard – Weird Words


Just for fun

Banksy – The Walled Off Hotel

Street Art Bio – Banksy


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