Apostrophes in Birmingham street names: shall we deaf it?

Birmingham City Council has decided, in their wisdom (ignorance), to drop apostrophes from all their road signs and place names.

Councillor Len Gregory said, “I don’t see the point of them. 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.”

Ok, the point of apostrophes, Mr Gregory, is that it shows a road, square, lane or street has been named after somebody. It shows that a road, square, lane or street belongs to somebody. And it shows that at least one person at Birmingham council has some grasp of English grammar. Presumably if Mr Gregory had a street named after him he’d be happy for it to be called Gregorys Street, rather than Gregory’s Street?

As it turns out, apostrophes have been disappearing from road signs and place names in Birmingham for the last 50 years. Which is why you see St Pauls Square, St Marys Road and Wheelers Lane.

Councillor Martin Mullaney said, “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.”

So, if you’re going to make a decision one way or another – why not make the right one? Why not decide that any new road signs will be correctly punctuated? And, as and when old signs need replacing the missing apostrophe is put back? It’s not difficult is it?  

Getting rid of apostrophes in street names has nothing to do with clarity. Or consistency. Or making sure the emergency services can find an address easily. It’s everything to do with apathy, laziness and a general dumbing down.   

P.S. Big thanks go to the ‘Talk like a Brummie day’ dictionary who taught this Londoner the phrase ‘deaf it’. (It means ‘not bother’, ‘forget it’.)


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