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Birmingham bans apostrophes
Posted: 03 February 2009 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Yeah but calling it Queen Anne’s Dead would be upsetting for some.

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Posted: 03 February 2009 08:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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A comment impasse-ing. Could it possibly be Queen Anne’s Dead-end or cul-de-sac? ;-)

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Posted: 03 February 2009 09:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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calling it Queen Anne’s Dead would be upsetting for some

Maybe only for her deluded nearest and dearest.

St Alban, I have just discovered, was the first British Christian martyr.  In 2006 some Church of England clergy suggested that he should replace St George as the patron saint of England.  Apparently “Cry, ‘God for Harry, England and St George’” is the only line in Shakespeare that links England to St George, so the change shouldn’t be too hard to stomach.

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Posted: 04 February 2009 01:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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bayard - 03 February 2009 02:20 PM

Dr. Techie - 03 February 2009 11:09 AM

Many of the online articles about this showed photos (modern enough to be in color) of a with-apostrophe version of the sign, so I don’t think you’re on target, here.

Well, it certainly looks C19th (and so does the church behind it), if not early C19th, from the lettering, but perhaps it’s a replica. Could you point me at a picture with-apostrophe version, please?

Of course, once you enter into the world of British place-names, there really are no rules, e.g Bishops Lydeard, but Bishop’s Stortford. Also the apostrophe has long since departed, if it ever existed, from the middle of names like Kingsbury Episcopi (So whose was it?)

Just because the photo’s modern, doesn’t meant the sign is . . . it looks 19thC/18thC to me too (the church is 18thC). The apostrophe version also has a different treatment of ‘ST’.

FWIW I don’t have any problem with losing apostrophes in signs, most UK shops (ie: Woolworths, Dixons, Currys) have dispensed with them. I do like the 19thC habit of writing street names with the hypen and lowercase initial for the road/street/avenue part.

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Posted: 04 February 2009 03:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Dr. Techie - 03 February 2009 03:05 PM

bayard - 03 February 2009 02:20 PM
Could you point me at a picture with-apostrophe version, please?

Here’s one.

If anything, the sign with the apostrophe looks newer than the one without.  It doesn’t have its fancy mounting, for starters.  It also has two spare apostrophes tucked under the “T” of “ST”, should anyone be feeling deprived. This whole story looks like a space-filler to me.  Someone has noticed that there are two signs for the same square, which could have been there for decades, one with an apostrophe and one without, like Zythophile’s Queen Anne’s Close and rung up an official in the local authority, who has already been exasperated by hours of committee time being wasted by pedants arguing about apostrophes and has decided, not unreasonably, that in future they won’t worry about apostrophes in signs. That’s hardly world news. Nowhere does it say that council workers are going to go round armed with angle grinders and paint pots and remove the remaining apostrophes from Birmingham’s signs, well not in the MSN report, anyway.

Edit: pipped by Flynn (spent too long waiting for the Telegraph website to load up, got bored and got on with some work)

[ Edited: 04 February 2009 03:08 AM by bayard ]
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Posted: 04 February 2009 03:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Is the possessive apostrophe replacing a vanished “e”?  Was “king’s” once “kinges”?

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Posted: 04 February 2009 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I’m pretty sure that the apostrophe-less sign for St Paul(’)s Square is the newer one. The red numeral 3 is the postal district. Currently, that tells you that postcodes there all begin with B3; prior to the early 1970s, it would have indicated the old Birmingham 3 postal district. I’m fairly sure that numbered postal districts in large towns were an innovation during WW1, but I don’t know when they started appearing on street names.

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Posted: 04 February 2009 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Is the possessive apostrophe replacing a vanished “e”?  Was “king’s” once “kinges”?

Possibly, but then again perhaps not.

The use of the apostrophe s to mark the genitive case is a recent (as these things go) addition to the language. The practice only began in the late 16th century and didn’t become standard until the 18th. (The use of the apostrophe to mark straightforward elision is older.)

The Old English masculine and neuter strong nouns did form the genitive with -es, and this ending was carried forward into Middle English in many cases. But the first words in English to get the -’s ending were foreign words ending in o, like Romeo’s. Some scholars contend the apostrophe marks an elided e, but there is that pesky first appearance with foreign words to explain.

I think it more likely that it simply began as a, not entirely necessary, means to distinguish the genitive from the plural, and elision had nothing to do with it. ("Not entirely necessary” because most of the time the meaning is clear from context.)

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Posted: 04 February 2009 09:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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The apostrophe version also has a different treatment of ‘ST’.

Yes, a rather old-fashioned treatment, which is all the more reason for thinking that that sign is the older.

Eliza’s comments about St. George sent me to Wikipedia to learn what I could about how he became associated with England. Incidental to that I came to realize that there is much I didn’t know about Roman imperial history:

Then [after the death of his parents] George decided to go to Mr.Hankeys house, the imperial city of that time, and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier.

[ Edited: 04 February 2009 09:25 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 04 February 2009 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Dr. Techie - 04 February 2009 09:13 AM

The apostrophe version also has a different treatment of ‘ST’.

Yes, a rather old-fashioned treatment, which is all the more reason for thinking that that sign is the older.

But as, Dr Fortran notes, the other sign is certainly not new.

Then [after the death of his parents] George decided to go to Mr.Hankeys house, the imperial city of that time, and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier.

What could they have meant?

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Posted: 04 February 2009 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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I wouldn’t look too deeply for meaning in what is almost certainly simply a vandal’s prank.

The original, unvandalized entry presumably said “Milan”, though I haven’t sorted through the history of the entry to check.

[edited to fix typo.  Wrong guess about city reluctantly left as is.]

[ Edited: 04 February 2009 02:28 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 04 February 2009 02:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Nicomedeia, actually.  It’s already been restored ("Undoing vandalism").

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Posted: 30 May 2011 01:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Recent New Yorker has a cartoon on apostrophes:

The link has aged off.

The schoolboy has written:

“Happy Mothers’ Day” and explains to the teacher “I have two
mommies. I know where the apostrophe goes.”

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Posted: 31 May 2011 01:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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I’ve always had the idea at the back of my mind that the possesive ending - ‘s - was an abbreviation of “his” : George his book, Albert his mark, etc.  Have i been wrong all this while? (wouldn’t be the first time, nor yet the last ;-)

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Posted: 31 May 2011 02:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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You’re far from alone, Lionello. The belief was prevalent, for instance, in Elizabethan times and you’ll often see constructions like John his book in texts of that era. When I was in the Army in the 60s I remember clerking for the Eduation Officer one weekend as he was preparing courses for the Army Certificate of Education. I noticed then that he was actually teaching men that the possessive apostrophe was short for his. (Did I, a lowly Gunner, set this full Colonel right? In a pig his eye I did!.)

Of course, as every schoolboy knows, (quickly cuts and pastes from Wikipedia having forgotten again)

An apostrophe is used in English to indicate possession. The practice ultimately derives from the Old English genitive case: the “of” case, itself used as a possessive in many languages. The genitive form of many nouns ended with the inflection -es, which evolved into a simple -s for the possessive ending. An apostrophe was later added to replace the omitted e, not his as is and was widely believed.

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