Thursday 22 December 2011

Apoplectic about Apostrophes

Stuck for a last-minute stocking-filler for your young 'uns? Exhausted with the effort of explaining austerity to a generation who have never known want? Why not bestow upon your children a real gift? From a long forgotten tradition you can present them with a present they will remember forever... or else.

Yes, this Yule, you'll be able to give them your gift of yore - the gift of grammar - a tenacious talent for pithy pedantry. Why? you may well ask. Because yesterday the oft-derided Twitter threw up this frustrated appeal:

 Helen Thomas 

I realise people find the whole its/it's thing difficult to grasp but why would it ever be its' ??? 

Twitter? You ask, incredulously. The very international breeding ground for grammatical work-rounds? The one place you expect punctuation to be sacrificed on the altar of brevity? Why would Twitter users be incensed by an errant apostrophe? For the same reason any sane literate person should be offended.

Okay, so my grammar ain't, you know, perfect, like. In fact it's a rare person indeed who knows it all and even Stephen Fry can't claim to be an absolute authority because there isn't one; English grammar is well known for its irregularities. But, I mean, I do at least know how to write what I mean, see what I mean? I can usually get my point across with a minimum of retractions, corrections and/or apologies.

In a world where an ill-educated footballer is being pilloried for his use of words, where his ignorance is being exhibited as a hate crime, shouldn't we care more, not less* about language? If he'd had the words, John Terry might have been able to express himself more eloquently and display his erudition with a flowery phrase of elegant abuse instead of his tawdry taunt.

As Britain's real standing in the world of education slips further and further behind, while the apologists for 'liberal' teaching methods bleat on about fostering individuality even as employers tear their hair out in frustration at the sheer intellectual ineptitude of their recruits, isn't it time to sort this out?

Those trainee teachers who famously failed multiple attempts to pass literacy tests that wouldn't have tasked a ten-year old in the nineteen sixties should be the first to be enrolled in the United Dingdom's new grammar schools. They'll be sitting in rows until their there's and they'res are sorted. You and yours can learn that a house is never 'brought' and that an apostrophe is never used to indicate a plural, no matter how many carrots you need to sell.

So, put away the iPads, turn off the telly and get out the slates for Christmas. And no pudding until you've learned your lesson.

(*Don't get me started on the ridiculous and incorrect American saying, "I could care less"!)


  1. Won't the snipers get a little rusty if we start educating the targets ?

  2. No Ken. It'll make the snipers work all the harder in locating them and taking them out with precision. Besides, what are the chances, do you reckon, of educating them at all when you see the material we have to work with?