back to article Birmingham drops the possessive apostrophe

Defenders of correct punctuation should look away now, because Birmingham City Council has voted to drop possessive apostrophes from its street signs, in the process risking a "pedants' revolt' as Middle England rises to combat this latest menace to our beloved mother tongue. According to the Times, the decision came following …


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  1. Neil Bauers

    Little pots of paint ...

    will be carried by teachers and pedants to re-insert the apostrophie's.

  2. Duncan Hothersall

    It would be even more tragic

    if the ambulance couldn't find your street because you'd correctly used the possessive apostrophe.

    Won't somebody think of the children?!

  3. Onionman

    Emergency Services

    Ia anyone seriously suggesting that the energency services might not find "King's Road" when they would find "Kings Road"? If that's true, then presumably if the operator types "kings road" you'd be stuffed as well. Get a grip. Or a better search tool.


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    People actually care about this? Actual, living, breathing members of society? Not fictitious people made up by the Daily Fail? This is what is wrong with this country.

  5. Ash

    Proper Noun

    I never thought of Acocks being possive... I thought it was the full name, the same as anybody with the surname Stevens or Jones.

    Mountain out of Molehill, anyone?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Radio 4: 1, Martin Mullaney: 0

    Martin's appearance on Radio 4's PM yesterday did him no favours; although he actually talks sense quite a lot of the time (even on his Youtube appearances), his advisers should have thought about teaching him to pronounce the 'a' in apostrophe (like the a in apocalypse, if it helps you, Martin) before appearing in Pedants Corner on BBC R4. Messenger or message, which is more important?

    His final point on R4 was that a national policy on the subject would be nice. There's some truth in this; talking about important issues like that might keep Our Leaders from more dangerous things like using our money and our children's money to prop up a collapsed and corrupt bancasino system. Vince Cable for PM, now.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Thank goodness

    Councillors don't program; they'd obviously have no respect for syntax at all.

    Isn't it simple? there's the right and the wrong way of spelling something.

    "This view will, I know, upset a lot of residents." ...Arrogant bastards; Who elected them, eh?

  8. Gordon

    The Opposite

    We've got the opposite problem where I live - stray full-stops.

    Obviously whoever orders the signs doesn't know the difference between a contraction and an abbreviation.

    Perhaps the residents of Birmingham could recycle our full-stops in to apostrophes?

  9. Michael Souris
    Thumb Down


    No, Mr Mullaney, it would be tragic if the emergency services used software that didn't strip punctuation when searching for place names. Admit it, you are using the IT angle as an excuse for justifying a position that you know is going to upset the council tax payers. Your problem now is going to be performing a U-turn with nobody noticing.

  10. Ian

    Long finished issue

    I've lived adjacent to them for more than forty years, and Kings Norton and Kings Heath have alway s been spelt without an apostrophe. The thought that Acocks Green (and would that be Acock's or Acocks', eh?) or Kitts Green might need an apostrophe has never even occurred to me, and I do grammatical pedantry with the worst of them. Druids Heath, Highters Heath...

    Here's a photograph of Kings Heath station in 1957; fifty years ago the apostrophe was gone.

    And more fun, are we now to worry about introducing a space into Kingstanding?

  11. Kevin Johnston

    Dangerous Precedent

    I note that they are saying that since the King no longer owns the Heath the name should change. Well according to a quick search, Birmingham either means the home on the hill by the heath or the home of the sons of Breme. Perhaps they would like to prove that either of these meanings are still valid or alternatively come up with a new name for their metropolis ( I could suggest a few).

    Do they really think that if the conditions which gave the original meaning change then the name is not valid? Does that mean that only sons of Jack can have the surname of Jackson? Would they perhaps like to take on names such as Kermit, Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggie because they certainly are portraying themselves as Muppets.

  12. Calum Morrison

    Apostrophe schmapostrophe.

    If Acocks Green, you've got bigger problems than punctuation.

  13. conan

    Couldn't resist...

    In the first paragraph of this article, an apostrophe is incorrectly used to terminate the quote "pedants' revolt" instead of inverted commas. Coincidence or a deliberate mistake?

  14. Ronald van Raaij

    So the council cannot do what google can?

    FTA: However, there is a (sort of) plausible reason for the move. As the Times notes, Oz in 2001 expunged apostrophes from place names "for the sake of consistency in the databases used by the emergency services". Mullaney rested his case with: “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

    Type in King's Heath in google; Type in Kings' Heath in google: it finds Kings Heath in (of all places Birmingham)! The argument is therefore fallacious and even silly.

  15. Colin Millar

    Don't get sick in Brum.......

    ......if the system can't handle such a close match as gs/g's

    Or maybe the developer never heard of escaping text inputs and apostrophes mess with the SQL

    Still it's heartwarming to know that our elected representatives have dealt with all those pressing social need issues and the impact of the economic crisis so well that they have time for this nonsense.

  16. Jord

    Tense Grammatical Debate

    "tense grammatical debate"......? In Birmingham.......?!

    Surely, a prerequisitie of being able to conduct a tense grammatical debate would be possessing the power to speak coherently in the first place....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    John Richards

    Speaking of examples, perhaps Mr. Richards should lead by one. His ancestors dropped the possessive apostrophe from his name (possibly to facilitate punch cards with no apostrophe for the census?) Of course, the first of his dynasty might have been "John Richard Richard Jones" and shortened it to the plural "John Richards" to save time, but that seems less likely than "John Richard's son." In these days of Unicode databases, he can enjoy much more freedom with his name. Maybe he could band together with the parents of "4real."

    That said, this all seems pretty silly, and completely suitable for Friday afternoon Reg content.

  18. Jimmy Floyd

    S'only fair

    Most Brummies drop the "H" from "King's Heath" anyway...

  19. Steven Jones

    lame reason

    'As the Times notes, Oz in 2001 expunged apostrophes from place names "for the sake of consistency in the databases used by the emergency services". Mullaney rested his case with: “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.” ®'

    ...or not find it if you do use the possessive apostrophe. Any half-way decent navigation software will work with and without the apostrophe. The real world just isn't that consistent. Even Transport for London, A-Z and the Ordnance Survey can't agree on the use of possessives in things like station names.

  20. TeeCee Gold badge

    "pedants' revolt'

    "pedants' revolt' !?!

    What sort of punctuation do you call that!

    "pedants' revolt", with a terminating double quotation mark rather than an apostrophe after "revolt", surely?

    (From the body text and not the subheading, before anyone anyone wades in with their size twelves.)

    This has been a pedant's revolt, as there's only one of me*.

    *"Thank f*ck for that", as a riposte, is too obvious and will not be considered funny.

  21. The BigYin

    If it's not the King's Heath..

    ...then whose heath is it? Name it after them. I think "United Reality and Strip Mining Inc's Heath" has a nice ring to it.

  22. Paul Murphy


    It should be (for instance) 'Kings' Heath' not, as suggested, 'King's Heath' since I always understood that the s' was the possesive, whereas the 's was a contraction of is.

    I'm sure that's the case.

    Anyway, let the flames commence.


  23. John A Blackley

    I get it.

    Now I understand why these massive rises in Council Tax are necessary! All is clear at last.

    Can we now expect next year's Council Tax increase to be even bigger to give our overlords the wherewithal to tackle those rogue colons and semicolons?

  24. Matt Horrocks
    Thumb Down


    “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

    It would also be tragic if they went ahead and couldn't find your street because you *did* use the apostrophe. How about they strip out the punctuation when comparing against their database then you don't die as a result of your own poor grammar or as a result of this scheme going ahead...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's all in the usage

    Well, I can kind of see their point (not full stop! :-D): the possessive part of the original name is now rather questionable, and for the sake of consistency in databases and whatnots it probably makes sense to wave them bye bye in *this instance*. I mean it's not as if it's the first time ever place names have evolved from an original meaning to something similar but not quite the same...?!

    And note that they're not proposing to remove them from EVERYTHING the council does, just place names. Pedants get a life.

    Wow how pedantic am I posting a comment on such a trivial item??

  26. Joe

    Let battle commence

    "apple's for £1" saw that this morning....ARRRRRRRRRGH

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me of an historical joke...

    Q: "Who was the leader of the Pedants' Revolt?"

    A: "Which Tyler."

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Tragic - if we made stuff up for dramatic effect

    "It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe"

    Yeah, right - and Australia is covered in nearly identically named streets in the same town? I think not. And what GPS system counts the apostrophe when doing lookups? None of course. I wonder why...

    Far more likely they'll get right street, wrong town. Lots of towns have a High Street and a London Road for instance, how DO the emergency services manage ? Its a wonder we've not all died already.

    This is a piece of chocolate coated FUD.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... by making the singular possessive apostrophe redundant, the possessors are now plural ("Kings" and "Acocks")?

    In other words, the three examples should now in fact be Kings' Heath, Kings' Norton and Acocks' Green - which for the apostrophically challenged, could be even worse.

  30. Martin

    As a Birmingham resident

    I would (very weakly) prefer the apostrophies to be there rather than not, but it's not something that bothers me.

    As for databases and so on, just because the road signs have punctuation (or not), what bearing does that have on databases? Surely the dbase should be apostrophe-less regardless of whether the road signs have them or not?

  31. Frank Reding


    “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

    That is most ignorant excuse I have ever heard. They should fire whoever programmed their systems not to search for all possible combinations, with or without apostrophe, and other permutations.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Their Children

    are these teachers making the two back beast like bunnies on viagra?

    Shirley, that should be their pupils. And then you could have had the play on words with seeing and the signs.

    Yes, I am a little annoyed my big endian, little endian, and rot13 comments have been censored by the Register, for dross on the apostrophe.

    We don't even have an apostrophe on a standard keyboard, we just have the bastardised single quote.

    Watch this post get censored :) &#apos; yes include some small nugget of tech humour and off to the great big /dev/null in the sky with you.

  33. Nick Rutland

    Somebody's got to say it ...

    That would be, er, John Richard's, then?

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Tragedy, databases, possessive apostrophes and the ambulance service

    <brr> <brrr-brr> Hello, 999 emergency services, which service do you require?

    >> Ambulance, please

    Connecting you ... <brr> Hello, ambulance service. What address requires an ambulance?

    >> I'm at 34, King's Drop Table, Birmingham. ...

    Thanks, we'll dispatch an ambulance now, it'll be there in ... err... hold on.... sorry, something seems to have gone wrong with the computer....

    (apologies to xkcd)

  35. vinyl1

    Historically correct!

    This is actually historically correct. You won't see any apostrophes in any ancient or medieval Germanic languages, or in Middle English. Why would you put an apostrophe between a noun and its case ending?

    I believe the apostrophe was added by folk-etymologists in the 16th century.

  36. Sam

    Give me strength


  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm Kinda in agreement, and I never thought I would be. I think that as it is now a Name and not a description it is correct.

    If it were on the map as 'Norton' and owned by the King and known as 'King's Norton' then fine it is correct until it becomes 'Kings Norton' on the map, then its just a name, and is no longer a description of possession.

  38. ewan
    Paris Hilton

    Sounds like a bad excuse

    Sounds like he couldn't do the grammar and then made up a series of ever more convoluted excuses that have now become policy. Idiot.

    Paris, because she knows where to put the '.

  39. Peter H. Coffin


    Emergency services fooled by apostrophes? That's someone making up scary stories to what amounts to a meaningless and arbitrary decision. Matching on this kind of thing is far, far looser than would be lost by the difference between "King's Heath" and "Kings Heath". It would probably stil find the same place given "Kinsey Heap".

  40. Matthew Taylor
    Thumb Down

    Kings aiith

    This comes as no surprise at all.

    But then again, if I were to see video footage of Birmingham city council smearing their badly punctuated signs with their own shit, and dancing around them , screaming and grunting, it would come as no surprise.

    However, that would not make it right. The apostrophe is there for good reason, and a million realpolitik, anti-elitism arguments spouted in ugly rustic accents will not change that.

    We need to stop anti-intellectualism in its tracks. A pity that organisations, such as the BBC , which once might have been counted upon to take a paternalistic attitude to the maintenance of good standards regarding English language, have instead fallen under the spell of the markets, and chase ratings with Saturday night reality drivel.

    Very sad.

  41. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    self-awareness fail

    >...Daily Fail?

    >This is what is wrong with this country.



  42. Marvin the Martian
    IT Angle

    Interesting new rule

    So the honourable council has invented the "once possession is lost you have to hand in the apostrophe" grammar rule. Interesting:

    Hence it's the kings ex-wife, and the kings wife (after female suffrage) or the king's wife (before feminism and all that nonsense) depending on the time period the sentence is framed in.

  43. Martin Lyne


    999 Operator: "Does your street belong to, figuratively, the King?"

    Dying person: "I've been shitting stabbed, just send an ambulance to S74 88ED!"

    Thin end of the wedge of ignorance.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    More dumbing down, as those incapable of getting it right at school, gain employment in positions of power. What image does it give of us here in the UK to the rest of the world ?

  45. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    oh God must I

    It's single quote marks because that is Reg house style for subheads. There's only one apostrophe there, correctly placed after 'pedants', to denote collective possession.

    Now I am leaving this thread and never coming back. Although actually I must say street names are one thing I don't give that much of a fuck about when it comes to apostrophes. This is what living in London does to you - even King's/Kings Cross can't be consistent, and so for some reason that part of my pedantry has just... died. It's just as well, I need a break from it sometimes.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    London too

    Barons Court?

    Anyway, who cares about Acock. Names are just identification tags in

    daily life. Understanding the story of a name is nice for historians,

    but I never knew the story of the name of Acocks Green for the 30

    years I lived close by, and nor do I really care.

  47. Stevie


    Not half so tragic as the software programmers not knowing how to parse the input and escape any rogue apostrophes *before* submitting a query.

  48. Matt Eagles

    Brand news

    This is hardly new, I lived in sunny Brum back in the 1990's and "Browns Green" was unapostrophed near my old digs. That sign itself was a fine bit of cast iron that I guess was pretty old even then. Possessive apostrophes surely only work in the case of possession, as the council point out this is redundant in the current case with much of Brum's place names. We should demand all place names ending with an old English possesive term to have an apostrophe put back, Bols'ton, Brixs'ton, Brents'ford, Greens'ford. Or we could just accept that the language changes and stop being pedantic jerks.

  49. Les

    Surely not

    @Paul Murphy

    King's <--- Belonging to one King, or indeed a contraction of "King is", as in "the King's here". Which is meant can generally be deduced from the context.

    Kings' <--- Belonging to more than one King

  50. Paul Isaac's


    Rather than blabber on... I like the apostrophe... it's been in my name for years, even on birth certificates and bank accounts and I'm not about to remove it for idiocracy's sake.

    The apostrophe in my name signifies belonging/family of or son-of, in much the same way the Irish use O' at the start of many of their surnames. The Scandinavians use son at the end of theirs.

    My name: Paul Isaac's

    Don't let English grammar suffer at the hands of those that want to not understand or cast idle fears that poor SQL programmers can't cope with it.

  51. Dale Harrison

    "Apostrophe Protection Society" ?! '

    I can't believe no-one commented on this society, never mind all the apostrophe crap. I thought it was a joke but no. I nearly spent some further googling time on the "Comma Appreciation Society" or the "Which is the Best Bracket Conference".

    But it's just one more example of stupidness. You do realise that like nearly every TV advert nowadays, they are going to put disclaimers on road signs too. "If you don't get there it's not our bloody fault" (obviously, some lawyers need to adjust the wording)

    And perhaps add some apostrophes....

  52. Putrescine

    Apostrophe? What apostrophe?

    This is such a non-event. I mean, I was born in Kings Heath, grew up in Kings Heath and after time away down south (learning about civilisation and taming the elemental forces of fire) I again live in Kings Heath and it has never, ever had an apostrophe.

    In fact, it's such a non-event that it has prompted me to finally register for an El Reg account.

  53. Hans

    Totally Insignificant

    With an accent as bad as their's, ( theirs' / theres / dares - take your choice) wtf cares how badly the brummies spell our language since they are already crucifying it in speech.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Nick Rutland

    " That would be, er, John Richard's, then? "

    Ummm... no. The suffix -s derives from the Brythonic Celtic tradition, not the Anglo-Saxon possessive.

  55. Aaron

    It's not April 1, but...

    "The Apostrophe Protection Society"? You cannot be serious.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    BCC strike back...

    It's nice to see my council tax money being spent so wisely. Hell, the local schools don't need the money, 'cause none of the kids can be bothered turning up...

  57. Peyton


    You did it! You finally, really did it! YOU PEDANTS!

    Sorry 8) but when I read "Apostrophe Protection Society" I thought it was a joke, and googling and finding that such a thing actually exists - well my reaction could only be expressed a la Charlton Heston.

  58. Christoph

    I hope the London ambulance service is more competent

    The Brummies' ambulance service can't handle apostrophes? I hope the London lot aren't so incompetent. How will they handle calls to High Beach, which overlooks the river Lea, if their system uses the other commonly used and also legitimate spellings High Beech and river Lee?

  59. Doug Glass
    Paris Hilton

    The Dumbing Down of England

    Normally this comment ends with "America", but it appears you across the pond have contracted the same disease.

    Paris because she just can't be dumbed down ... any further.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    I'm just happy to see Acocks Green Represented

    I live in Acocks Green. I don't think the apostrophe really matters that much. After all its not the King's Heath anymore or the Acock's Green.

    - Aaron

  61. Andrew Garrard
    Dead Vulture

    You say that...

    > Mullaney rested his case with: “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

    Could I suggest that this point is debatable? It would be the best scheme I've yet heard for encouraging good grammar.

    Besides, if this took off everywhere it would be harder to spot tourists - for example those who, in Cambridge, don't know the distinction between Queen's Road and Queens' College. Think of all the students who would be run over.

    Speaking as someone who followed a florist's van this morning with the slogan "Wer'e bloomin' good" on the back of it, I despair for humanity. Thank goodness for programming languages, which usually insist on correct punctuation.

    (Not a member of the APS, but I have been known to correct the label on the front of the Cleaners' Sign-In Book.)

    REG^H^H^HThe English language.

  62. Anonymous John
    Paris Hilton

    @ It's not April 1, but...

    It's true.

    I sent them the "Dear Passenger's" one (examples 4).

    Pari's because.........

  63. Pierre

    Emergency services?

    Screw the paramedics. What if the 'leccy, water and internet packets can't find your house because you used an apostrophe in the subscription papers?

    I think this Mullaney guy desserves the "lamest excuse of the century" award.

  64. Froemps

    All apostrophes are on holiday... Germany. They are everywhere, breeding like rabbits. Or rabbit’s. Please take them back.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Emergency services databases (WM Police in particular)

    I have, on a number of occasions over a few years, needed to report incidents to WM police via their "help desk" in K'i'n'gs' H'e'a't'h' (not via 999, via their 0845 number).

    THEY DON'T DO POSTCODES. This despite having spent tens of millions over the same few years upgrading their "integrated" command, communications, and control system(s).

    On the first occasion I found this out I politely and respectfully expressed my surprise and disappointment [no irony intended] and the eejit on the phone went into a ten minute rant, thus preventing me from making my report in a timely manner, and preventing others from getting through in a timely manner. Maybe he'd had a particularly bad day. He was very lucky to avoid a formal complaint from me.

    Since then I ask if postcodes work and if the answer is still no I swiftly move on to speeling out the address and hoping it doesn't get lost in transcription.

    It's not that long since my other half phoned the Ambulance service in West Berks, in a case which was a life or death emergency, from a ridiculously unspellable address, and they too couldn't cope with postcode->address translation. By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late. No way of knowing for sure whether the extra seconds mattered, but...

    If these folks really truly can't afford a corporate postcode->address licence for the CCC system [1], why can't they get all the front line people a cheap 2nd-hand (presumably nicked) TomTom from Cash Converters or wherever, a gadget whose postcode->address function would cover 99.8% of postcodes practically for free?

    Maybe they both bought a US import CCC system and didn't notice it doesn't do postcodes till you pay the vendor/integrator extra $M or more?

  66. Daniel

    @Paul Murphy

    It would be "King's Heath" if the Heath is owned by just one King.

    It would be "Kings' Heath" if it is owned by more than one King.

    Additionally, "Kings' Heath" could refer to a singular owner if, for example, the person in question is named "Kings".

    The contraction of "King is" is, as you say, always "King's". The existential contraction for more than one King would be "Kings're".

    Mine's the one with the leaves and pistol in the pocket.

  67. twelvebore
    Paris Hilton

    Hospital case

    So let me get this straight. They're worried that when I phone for an ambulance the database will get confused between King's Avenue and Kings Avenue? Rather than that when I say "King's Avenue" over the phone to the 19-year-old at the other end that they wouldn't likely transcribe it as Kingz Avaneu? And then that the Birmingem Ambluance's Cervix won't be able to figure out where that is?

    Paris, because she's the kind of girl who doesn't get possessive about things like aprostroffs. Bless.

  68. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: oh God must I

    <Hurt tone>

    I did specifically say it was from the body text and not the subhead, as did the earlier poster on the same subject and that the reason that I quibbled was due to its mix of quotation mark styles and not that it was one or the other.

    </Hurt tone>

    ....and yes, you must. What did you expect, running an article like this? Red rags and bulls, you know?

    BTW, I appear to have found your coat, here you are....

  69. Peyton

    St. Marys Rd?

    Just saw that in an AP article on this topic - looks completely ridiculous. Makes me want to go and change it to St. Maries :\ Ya know, I'm usually not one for nitpicking points of grammar, but in choosing between including a tiny little mark (that in its own little way represents hundreds of years of history) in the name of correctness and making things (allegedly) more correct but looking ridiculous, aesthetics is going to win out with me.

    Alternately, rename everything to a symbol, and just refer to "the area formerly known as Kings Heath"

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I hate to point this out...

    ...but when you phone the emergency services and bark down the line

    "Quick, get yourselves over to King's Heath ASAP..."

    I don't think you actually make a point of pronouncing it "King-apostrophe-s Heath (you know, the possessive singular)" do you?

    So given that the voice input part of the circuit is completely deaf to apostrophes, how on earth can the provision of emergency services have any bearing on the matter one way or the other?

    It's just FUD. Don't be possessed by it!

  71. Alice Andretti
    Paris Hilton etc

    "Froemps" said:

    " Germany. They are everywhere, breeding like rabbits. Or rabbit’s. Please take them back."

    Yes, as wyth so much of are langauge, apostrophe's our overuse'd misuse'd an abused. See th'e following websight for detale's. Yes, its a *reel* axtual webbsight.

    - Paris cause i think here name showd have a apostrophe two: Pari's. Or Paris'. There ;)

    (Uv korse i axtually dew no how two right korectlee.)

  72. Anthony Mark

    @Emergency services databases (WM Police in particular)

    I live in Birmingham - kingseef is my nearest High Street, in fact. The only use that a postcode has here is to distinguish between rival gangs of feral youths.

    Following Cllr. Mullaney's advice, I'm sure that the correct spelling should reflect how locals pronounce it, hence kingseef. For the sake of convenience, I elect that we forget about capitalisation also, as the emergency services may be unable to find you if the operator types in the street name sans capitals.

    Slightly worryingly, I've seen signs for 'ST. Pauls Square'. Quite how they can justify dropping the apostrophe put keeping the full stop after ST. is beyond me. Also note the incorrect capitalisation of the 'T'.

    On a serious note, I've sent Cllr. Mullaney an email expressing my views and I would urge everyone else to do the same. His email address is, of course, listed on Birmingham City Council's website. Should the censor see fit, it is: .

  73. CJ Bergeron

    It's not about the apostrophe, it's about the database

    Working in emergency services in the US, I can tell you that the database in question is most likely connected to a map. That map, as PCs in emergency services vehicles become more prevalent is on all of these PCs. The database is a part of that map and contains the names of the streets on the map. Our agency has used a few of the more common programs used for mapping and none of them seems to handle punctuation well, especially hyphens and apostrophes. Usually the remainder of the street names get cut off. In the earlier mentioned example of King's Rd, the name becomes King.

  74. Just Thinking
    Thumb Down

    Typical council a*se covering

    Reading the full Times story, basically the council have been messing up recently and accidentally installing signs without the apostrophes. A few pedants have complained, and the council have figured out it will cost a lot to fix (with the side effect of making them look like idiots). So they have decided to justify a policy of no longer using apostrophes, based on totally nonsensical arguments. Saves them fixing the problem.

    It is hilarious to see the councillor (hopefully an intelligent and educated man) pretending that he thinks the correct grammatical form of a phrase depends on whether it is actually true. FFS, should all fictional works omit apostrophes because the characters don't really exist?

    The emergency services database argument has also been debunked here.

    The council are covering their own mistakes.

    The reason this is important is because councils do exactly the same when they screw up over something which actually matters. Like schools. Police, protecting vulnerable children, town planning etc etc.

  75. CJ Bergeron

    The real issue is not the apostrophe, it's with the software

    Working in emergency services in the US I've seen this at our agency. The database in question is attached to a map and contains a list of street names for the map. As PCs in the emergency services vehicles become more common, these all have a copy of this map installed. As our agency has used a couple of the more common programs for maintaining the map, I've seen that they do not handle punctuation very well, especially apostrophes and hyphens. Usually everything after apostrophes gets cut off, to re-use an earlier example, King's Road would be cut off to show only King. I suspect the people of Alabama are running into a similar issue, eliminating the apostrophes is a work around to this.

  76. P. Lee
    Paris Hilton

    re: King's Heath

    If it doesn't belong to the king, surely it should just be called "Heath."

    You save not only the paint for the apostrophe, but also a whole five extra letters, plus a space!

    As a place name, the point that it belonged to the king at some point should be enough. After all, we have lots of "forest road" names without a forest being in sight. Given that we don't have a king, I suspect people know the place doesn't belong to him.

    I have to agree, the ambulance story is one of the lamest I've ever heard. Strip trailing esses in the database if you can't code escapes. It s easier than changing place names!

    It looks like change for change's sake. I suggest the good councilmen stick to improving rubbish collection and stop annoying large parts of the electorate, regardless of the merit of such a plan. More focus and less self-publicity please...

    Paris, the similarities are more than skin deep...

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brum Brum

    Acocks Green? Mine isn't! Ok........I'll get my coat.

  78. Dale Morgan

    This is very bad

    Its an embarresing time to be alive seeing our language dumbed down.

    Is this to make things easier for us, or are we dumbing down the language to accomodate foreigners?

  79. Lupus
    Thumb Down


    What the fuck?! As a Brummie, why was I not consulted? I'd tell them where they could shove each and every apostrophe they needlessly removed, the twunts.

  80. Neoc

    Stupidity rules, UK!

    If the problem is the lack of ownership, then the places should be renamed "king heath" and "acock green", without any "s" whatsoever.

    The fact that people can't be bothered to spell properly should *never* be an excuse to "simplify" a language. What next? "IQ: 75 is the new 100" simply because people are to stupid to pass the tests?

    As for the OZ reference, the changes were in the *SEARCH FIELDS* of the database. You know, the one where the data is simplified and, in many cases, reduced to soundall phonemes to allow "fuzzy" matching? So that the operator can type "kings road" as a search parameter without to waste time asking if it should be spelled "kings", "kings'" or "king's"?

    (mind you, having said that... when the government replaced the roadsigns in my area, a local suburb was marked as "Murarrie" and "Murrarie" on two adjacent signs. Until the local papers had fun with the mistake, at which point they got fixed overnight)

  81. Moss Icely Spaceport

    Heres' my title and word's

    Ive' alway's wondered about the'se apostrophe thing's.

  82. antony


    I am not 100% certain that we should worry about what Birmingham does. We should be concerned if the practice of not bothering, which is what Birmingham is doing, spreads.

  83. Robert Ramsay

    It's nice to know...

    ...that no subject is too small for Pavlov's Frothing Dogs.

  84. Pete James

    Wipe it off the map

    It's a small-minded decision made by a small-minded little tinpot town that continually calls itself the second city despite having NOTHING of any note within it's boundaries.

    Remember the Capital of Culture farce? For some wacky reason the bhurgers of Birmingham decided to put in a bid. Slight problem; the entire place has no culture at all. None. Zip. Zilch. So they just used neighbouring counties instead. Did you know that Shakespeare was a Brummie? The Industrial revolution began in Brum? According to that lot it was all true. Thank God the panel saw through their deceit.

    So, what has Birmingham ever given us? Jasper Carrott. Adrian Chiles. And UB40. Great, a second rate comic, a miserable TV presenter and a reggae-lite band. Thanks, Birmingham!

  85. Sam Tana

    An incorrect apostrophe is like a snooker cue in my eye....

    Why not rename the offending streets and areas if the 'pos is inconvenient? Go ahead, wipe away centuries of history. No-one cares, apparently. Let's pander to the hard of thinking.

    And could someone have a word with "Morrisons" - a shop which, if their signage is to be believed, sells only people or things called Morrison. It's THE place to go for your Jim and Van records. And is it really true that Van Morrison was born in a gym, and Jim Morrison was born in a van?

  86. Richard

    Poor coding standards

    “It would be tragic if the ambulance couldn’t find your street if you forgot to use the possessive apostrophe.”

    A few years ago I did a pass-the-time project... a tube route planner. It was slow, didn't have the best logic and was written in TCL, but it WAS able to handle punctuation in the station names.

    If emergency services software writers can't implement the following code, then we're all in a lot of trouble:

    if (strip_punctuation(input_street) == strip_punctuation(database_street)) then matched=true; display_results();

    -- RIchard

  87. Mark


    For the sake of the emergency services I propose a law be passed to prevent streets being renamed "'); DROP geocode_tbl;"

    Or, better yet, maybe we should all apply to our local councils to rename a street just that? Then we'll see what a database nightmare is.

  88. Froemps

    @ Alice Andretti

    Thank you for the link. Very entertaining.

    I thought only the people in Germany are getting dumber every year.

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Pete James

    Wipe it off the map? A little harsh. Anyway Birmingham also gave us; Nigel Mansell, Julie Walters, Tony Hancock, Ozzie Osbourne,Matthew Bouton, JRR Tolkien, Barbara Cartland, Cat Deeley, Trever Eve, Anne Heywood, Ian Lavender, Sue Lawley, ELO,Move, Pat Roach, Chris Tarrant, Murray Walker, Graham Webb, Toyah Wilcox, Musical Youth, Frank Skinner(ok Black Country but considers himself a brummie!), Asian Dub Foundation, Dexy's Midnight Runners, The Beat,Steel Pulse,Joan Armatrading,Ruby Turner, Judas Priest, Ocean Colour Scene, Moody Blues, Black Sabbath,George Cadbury, Duran Duran,Traffic,Carl Palmer, Martin Shaw,Phil Lynott, Neville Chamberlain,Jamelia,Robert Plant,Apache Indian and the Balti.

    So.......... you say it has no culture at all?

  90. bob beckley

    I wrote a song about it

    called "Apostrophe Apostasy." Link is here:

  91. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Christoph - London Emergency Services

    Christoph you need not worry, London Emergency services recognise High Beech. However you will need to contact Essex as since 2000 they have been moved out of the Metropolitan Police District and the LAS/LFB area.

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