The Apostrophe Society has announced its closure. (Link via Shelf Awareness for Readers.) And as a result public demand has increased so much that it has crashed their website, which is now being rejigged and is due to come back online early next year.

In his announcement that at 96 he’s shutting the society down, John Richards, the founder, comments “the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!” The so-called “grocer’s apostrophe” has, as The Spectator reminds us, never actually confused anyone. Which is fair enough, but is that really the standard to which we should hold ourselves? Like all questions of morality I suspect that the decision about the standards to which we hold ourselves ought ultimately to be decided by each individual. If you want to inveigh against burgeoning apostrophization, inveigh away. If not, devote your bandwidth to more important matters. But what others do need have no effect on your own practice.

I like to try to use apostrophes appropriately, and when I see one misused, I’m happy to mock it. But I can’t say I really care one way or the other. The purpose of signage or any other writing is communication. I doubt if an apostrophe in potatoe’s ever lead anyone, even whatsisname* into confusion.


* For those who don’t remember, Dan Quayle was Vice President of the United States from 1989-93. In 1992 he suggested at an elementary school spelling bee in Trenton, NJ that 12-year-old William Figueroa’s spelling of “potato” might be corrected to “potatoe”. Other gems include “I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future”, and “I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy, but that could change”