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Birmingham bans apostrophes from road signs
Councillors in Birmingham have walked into a punctuation storm after deciding to scrap apostrophes from the city’s road signs.
England’s second city has removed the possessive punctuation mark from street names, saying it aims to avoid confusion.
One councillor even went so far to say he did not “see the point” of the possessive apostrophe in place names.
“If it was to give more clarity to the people of Birmingham it might be something we would look at, but I see no benefits at all,” cabinet transportation member Len Gregory told the Birmingham Post.
The decision, which the council hopes will draw a line under decades of dispute, follows a review to establish whether the possessive punctuation mark should be restored to place names such as Kings Heath, Acocks Green and Druids Heath.
Councillor Martin Mullaney said the decision not to reintroduce apostrophes, which began to disappear from Birmingham’s road signs in the 1950s, had been taken in light of several factors, including the need for consistency and the cost of changing existing signage.
“We are constantly getting residents asking for apostrophes to be put back in and as a council we have got to make a decision one way or another,” said the chair of the city’s transportation scrutiny committee.
The ruling will also mean that Birmingham’s well-known St Paul’s Square, in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, will soon be known as St Pauls.
But grammarians have attacked the decision as “dumbing down”.
John Richards, the founder and chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society, said: “It seems retrograde, dumbing down really.
“It is setting a very bad example because teachers all over Birmingham are teaching their children punctuation and then they see road signs with apostrophes removed. I think the council would be better advised to make sure the right apostrophes are in rather than removing them.
“It’s a bad example to children and teachers. It’s a simple rule and so many people get it wrong.”