Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Punctuation Matters
This blog believes in giving credit where it is due. The above example, seen in Serangoon Central, is a pleasant surprise, with its two perfectly-placed apostrophes (Senior Citizens’ Corner; Residents’ Committee). In Britain they would almost certainly have been omitted altogether, because few people know how to use them and many think they look fussy and dated, especially in trade names. Even the venerable Harrod’s became Harrods decades ago. (Sony’s trademark name for its digital camera line — Cyber-shot — is in fact a rather surprising anachronism in this punctuation-shy age.) As with many endangered species, the apostrophe has its own champions — the Apostrophe Protection Society. Where this humble punctuation mark is encountered in Britain nowadays, it is often wrong. Greengrocers are often fingered as the worst offenders, because they typically make this sort of error, named the ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’ in their honour: Carrot’s, Potato’s, Strawberry’s (Carrots, Potatoes, Strawberries). But they are not the only culprits. At university I had a classmate who thought church’s was the plural form — it is, of course, churches. (Ironically, his father was Britain’s best-known linguistics professor.)

Contrast the perfectly-punctuated example above with this semi-illiterate advertisement (Today, July 31, 2006) by an English tutor, whose main selling point appears to be that he is a British native speaker. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words…

4 comments:

loey said...

Another narrow-minded "native" speaker who's targetting those suffering from perpetual colonial hangover.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Well put!

You have a great blog -- I've bookmarked it and will visit it regularly.

Michirure said...

Erm.. this is a very back-dated comment, but I just want to say that it may not be the tutor (the advertiser)'s fault that the ad came out filled with errors. I had advertised in such a column before and the end product was filled with mistakes as well. The 'printing people' often change the words to fit in the column, as the advertiser is often unwilling to pay for an extra line. One line costs about $11-$15, without all the gst and additional charges.

The Grammar Terrorist said...

I can assure you he/she was responsible for the errors -- it was the only ad on the page riddled with mistakes, and appeared several times during that period!

Yes, these printing/layout people are great at bungling things. I've edited magazines/books before, and I know from experience that when they fix something, they mess something else up.