Tuesday, 11 February 2014
The Battle of Stumpie's Brae
The Guardian reports that Cambridge City Council has reversed a policy of banning apostrophes from street signs after a public outcry. Although apostrophes are mandated in certain contexts by traditional English grammar, it is a fact that they are often absent in place-names, ostensibly because of worries about confusing drivers, but no doubt also because allowing them a presence once would result in calls to have other signs amended where the apostrophe is absent or has been used wrongly.
The council was reacting to a spate of vandalism whereby the missing elements were being added by sticklers with marker pens.
Regular readers will recall that there was recently a row on Fermanagh District Council relating to the question of whether the bare fact of writing the word crannóg with a síneadh fada meant that a sign was in Irish. Ultimately that turned on issues of symbolism.
Such concerns may well have been the case in Cambridge, since hosting one of England's top two universities is of course part of its understanding of self (as a town with no cathedral, it traditionally owed its status as a city to it, something formalised by a charter as late as 1951).
Perhaps Northern Ireland isn't so different after all, then.