back to article Wakefield does a Brum with possessive apostrophes

Wakefield Council has done a Brum and dropped possessive apostrophes from street names, prompting a further wave of linguistic indignation from the good burghers of Middle England. According to the Telegraph, the move is intended to "avoid confusion". The council's director for planning and property, Ian Thompson, defended: " …


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  1. Pete

    Quite right

    And some people take maths a little too seriously as well.

  2. Osiris

    @John Wells


    How's that for text speak?

  3. Stevie


    This is what happens when you ellect councillors who only did CSE English.

    Thay has went to far!

  4. Alex


    New Keyboard please!

    Lester - why didn't you allow my last post??

  5. Matt


    Im the first person to agree that my spelling, grammar and punctuation isn't the best, but I'm also not the person in charge of making things make sense!

    I was at the hospital last week and whilst navigating the car park was greeted with the following sign... "No Parking Hospital Staff Only"

    Does the sign indicate that area was parking for hospital staff only, or was the sign there to inform the hospial staff to not park there?

    my mind boggled for a while until i noticed that the electricity box was locked with 8 different padlocks and with the rain pouring down like it was, that I would pity the fool that had to gain access to said box!

    anyway... the general rambling point that I am struggling to make, is that punctuation and correct grammar should be enforced by our leaders when trying to convey a message to us minions...

  6. Alex

    "I a'fert gor th'Adsa"

    Next Week:

    "I nd 2 go hm n c da kidz muva"

    Someone please shoot the silly TWAT!

  7. Squits
    Thumb Down


    It's not fucking confusing, it's the English language.

    Maybe if people stopped breeding like rabbits and there weren't so many scrotes hanging around, not bothering going to school, we might have a country that isn't on its arse.

    I wernt nvr taut english proper in school me.

    Honestly, the government says about failing this and failing that, it's their fault.

  8. Andrew Garrard

    Same rant as last time

    But now with an extra complaint about text speak. Am I the only one whose phones have had T9, which actually knows how to spell? It takes longer (although admittedly fewer characters) to type an abbreviated word under T9 than the full version. Acronyms for expressions are another matter, but "ROTFLMAAOBPO" predates text messaging - although I can't speak for "LOL"; nobody things "CUL8R" is correct. If you want to blame anyone for bad spelling, blame marketeers ten years ago who thought that a plethora of "X", "K" and "Z" in names looked kewl^H^H^H^Hcool. (WAREZ, D00DZ!)

    Skipping apostrophes is confusing - it hides meaning from place names that are otherwise ambiguous. Software should only need names to be distinct, not meaningful, so stripping punctuation at comparison time should be harmless; that's not the same as mangling the official names of places.

    That said, I work in "Meadlake Place", which is opposite "Medlake Road", so maybe I should pick my battles.

  9. sig

    More preparation for the rise of the machines

    Council Functionary: "Apostrophes are not generally used in street names as they can lead to problems and confusion when data is transferred electronically for other uses."

    Our robot overlords will be able to find and round us up all the more easily with the apostropes removed.

    So instead of painting 'V' everywhere, just add punctuation to defeat the machines.

    I for one don't welcome...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Redundant punctuation

    This piece of punctuation seems to have gone the way of the Dodo. I suspect that most of its uses are wrong, mainly erroneous plural"""s. English is a living language at least as far as it keeps the publishers of dictionaries in work. Let us phase out these anachronisms as they are no longer useful.

    From an IT point of view these things are a confounded nuisance in key name and address fields which we depend on for providing services including emergency assistance to people.

    Wakefield and Brum make sense, keep up the good work.

  11. Tim Croydon
    Thumb Down

    Where to start

    I'm annoyed inside, but I'm just losing the will to even bother arguing against this sort of nonsense!

    As a software engineer, I get extremely frustrated by spelling mistakes and bad grammar in code comments, let alone actual written documents. If somebody can't be bothered to pay a bit of care and attention to use correct English, then what confidence can I have that they've paid any care and attention to the work itself.

  12. Sooty

    too complicated? your own native language?

    i would have thought councils, of all people, would appreciate the disabiguation of the written word provided by the humble apostrophe.

    While we're at it why don't we drop all of the Homophones too as they're obviously completely useless. Next, get rid of all those pesky commas. People generally don't know how to use those either so they might be too confusing!

    you should also drop all grammatical rules too, as they are clearly too complicated for 99% of the population nowadays, which would make most other forms of punctuation redundant too.

    I suppose spelling is quite complicated, so away with that, as long as people 'get the gist' of which word you meant I'm sure it will be fine.

    What about all of those funny squiggly symbols people write, they are a bit complicated too. I mean we don't need 26 of them, do we. v, w, and u all look confusingly similar so replace with just v, the curvy bit of a u might prove too difficult. i & j could be mistaken so consolidate those too. In fact vowels are a bit useless altogether really so get rid of those completely. I'm sure we could cull a few more useless letters too.

    And after all this, we'll have a completely illeterate population.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    "[Apostrophes] lead to problems and confusion when data is transferred electronically"

    Damn. My plan to have my street renamed to ';DROP * FROM *; is foiled.

  14. Osiris

    @John Wells


    How's that for text-speak?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The answer

    Is obviously for councils and other official bodies that can't hack proper English to restrict themselves to Basic English.

    That would have the important additional benefit of eliminating most of today's pompous, meaningless verbiage. The words would simply not be available in the authorised vocabulary. Just imagine how much better a world this would be if officials could only make simple, verifiable statements of fact.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    A better idea ...

    ... is to sack the Muppets who cannot spell.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    As for Brum..

    ..after the last article, I've yet to see a road sign in Brum WITH the apostrophe.

    Fuss about nuffink's

  18. Cameron Colley

    They do have a point about electronic communication...

    Apostrophes do cause some problems when used on web pages, in databases and in SMTP addresses.

    However, the general attitude that they just don't matter is a bad one.

    As for this comment:

    "Text messaging, email and internet chat rooms are showing us the way forward for English. Let's allow people greater freedom to spell logically. It's time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principal (principle?) mark of being educated."

    While I have to admit to having problems with "accommodation" and other words with doubled-up letters, and don't have a problem with Americanisms such as center and color, I do have a problem when "know" is spelled "no" and "of", "off" and "have" are used interchangeably -- because it's fucking hard to read!

    Language should, surely, be used according to the situation? If you're on a sinking ship, then "SOS" is probably sufficient, if you're setting a time to meet a friend then "C U @ 8" will probably do -- but if you're writing and advert on eBay or posting on a web forum, or (at the extremes) writing a scientific paper or a novel you should use a fucking spell checker and, if you need it, a dictionary.

    Im gettin increasingly pist of with tryng too reed fing written by pepl who cant speel there worms or use the rong worms entirely.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Street names might be OK

    After all, the possibilities with the (hypothetical) James Road are several

    1, James' Road - road belonging to James or Mr James

    2. Jame's Road - road belonging to Mr Jame

    3. James Road - road going to James (a place)

    could solve some issues with streetworks maintenance database.

    I would put commentators down as 50% foaming at the mouth 50% misquoted

  20. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    Dear Sirs,

    This is exactly how Nazi Germany started!

    Yours, Mr Avid DM Reader, Middle England, Stuck Up-End!

  21. Steve

    It had to be done…

    Who wouldn’t’ve forseen problem’s with the apostrophies’ use.

  22. Sam Liddicott


    Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML

  23. Jess

    Surely an apostrophe isn't correct on a name anyway?

    There are lots of streets with no s and no apostrophe, they are obviously not possesives, so why should any street name be possesive, unless it is a private road named after the owner?

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Lighten Up

    How many can read and understand Old English? Which core components of the curious patchwork that we call Modern English need protecting? Celtic? Latin? Germanic? Norse? French? English is relevant because it is adaptable, so let us not be so possessive about apostrophes.

  25. zedee


    Principle - an idea, a noun.

    Principal - "of primary importance", adjective.

    Simple, nez paz?

  26. Ed Blackshaw Silver badge

    I think it's more likely

    That they just want to strip out all apostrophes from data being entered into their (probably badly written) IT systems so that someone doesn't have to bother to write any data-cleansing routines. SQL injection attacks here we come!

  27. Anonymous Coward


    This is terrible, its no wonder that people are not speaked English gooder like what I got.

  28. Colin Millar

    Apostrophes are evil

    Thats two councils that have noticed how they really screw up your digital data manipulation.

    I wonder if either of these councils have also noticed certain words used in conjunction with apostrophes playing havoc with their systems and allowing unauthorised people to do naughty things.

    We need to ban % $ % and !

    Also the words do, for, each, if, while, let, get, set, select, from and or - to name but a few

  29. Yorkshirepudding


    im was brought up in the wakefield met area and if they spent more fucking time and money sorting out the rundown outlying areas ex-mining towns and other unloved areas it would be much improved, not that i dont love the area being a patriotric yorkshire man but this nonsense gets my back up!

    rant over mines the one with the british coal logo on the back and the whippet lead in the pocket

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Spelling Logically?

    She means spelling rnadmoly

  31. Miss B

    you what?

    'Apostrophe Protection Society'

    how sad......

  32. It wasnt me


    "Apostrophe Protection Society" - do these people have nothing better to do

    From the abolish the question mark society.

  33. Jimmy Floyd

    Good plan

    What a splendid plan by John Wells. If it wasn't for the ability to "free up" a language in this manner I couldn't call him a "fuckwit" - a word which, (in the style of Murray Walker) unless I'm very much mistaken, does not appear in the Oxford English dictionary.

    John, you're a fuckwit.

    And ... breathe.

  34. Anonymous Hero

    IT workers no better

    It's shocking how bad spelling and grammar has become over the past few years. Here's a few samples of some of the things I see from clever people I know in IT that should know better, it makes my eyes hurt:

    The use of 'rediculous' instead of 'ridiculous'.

    The use of 'then' instead of 'than'

    Seeing 'doesent' makes me weep.

    Basic stuff like the mixed up use of 'there/their/they're', I mean how hard is it to get that right?

    Other primary school basics like 'i' before 'e' except after 'c' apparently forgotten/never learned.

    'wich' instead of 'which' is another howler I often see in business communications.

    Don't get me wrong, I failed my 'O' level English and scraped it in 5th year (preferring to study assembly language instead of the English one at exam time) so I'm no genius when it comes to creative prose/comprehension/essays, but I bloodywell knew my grammar and spelling upon leaving primary school.

    I don't know whether it's lazyness or our country is just generally getting thicker.

  35. Conrad Longmore


    But.. proper names (such as places) do not necessarily follow normal punctuation rules. These names adapt and evolve independently of normal grammar. So, we have "Cambridge" and not "Cam Bridge", "Wakefield" and not "Wake Field", "Birmingham" and not "Breme inga ham".

    I think the argument in Brum was about places like King's Heath.. or Kings Heath. Being an ex-Brummy, I don't think that I would use the apostrophe. In a hundred years time, it might be called Kingsheath.. except that sounds like a condom.

    I'll get my coat.

  36. Matt

    old hat

    didn't ordnance survey drop the apostrophes from place names on their maps ages back? so what makes this so controversial - sounds bloody sensible to me, it's not as if they have any real meaning or clarification of meaning in that context.

  37. Peter Labrow


    It takes less than five minutes to teach even the dumbest person how to use possessive apostrophes. Except in Birmingham and Wakefield apparently.

  38. Andy Livingstone


    Confu'sion surely?

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Yet another...

    ...blindingly brilliant example of sheer fscknuggetry from the powers that be. How the bloody hell do they expect people to know how to use something like a possessive apostrophe properly if they decide it is easier just to get rid of it? I'm sufficiently proud of the English language and the correct use of it that the prospect of arbitrarily changing it so as not to confuse the chav mouth breathers fills me with true loathing for the irresponsible individual or individuals that made the suggestion.

    What next? Change the value of pi to 3, no more fanny arsing about with these fiddly bits after the decimal point?

  40. Gav

    Missing apostrophes, how about entire words?

    "showing contempt for the large number of area's residents who take a pride in the English language"

    That's *the* area's residents.

  41. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    Just want to say...


    I MEAN...

    GLOBAL WARMING (although I have to say I'm not overly worried about that myself)










  42. Mike Crawshaw

    APS - Setting a Bad Example

    He's not enough of a pedant to be in charge of the APS!

    "Next in line was John Richards of the Apostrophe Protection Society, who said: "The council should aim its efforts to ensuring that apostrophes are used correctly, not deciding to erase them altogether. It is choosing the easy way out, dumbing down and showing contempt for the large number of area's residents who take a pride in the English language.""

    Immediately, I wish to correct him.

    "It is choosing the easy way out, dumbing down and showing contempt for the large number of **THE** area's residents who take a pride in the English language."

    Sheesh. Though, of course, I'm sure that I've made an equally obvious error here!

    Anyway. Stupid idea. Apostrophes are there for a reason. If you're going to remove the apostrophe, then remove the contraction it represents. Therefore:

    "St Noddy's Road" should be renamed "Saint Noddy His Road"

  43. Robert Ramsay

    and the final word goes to Clive James...,,1473515,00.html

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Punctuation and Communication

    St. John's Terrace - The terrace of St. John.

    St Johns Terrace - A terrace with several St Johns.

    Why can't these fuckwits see that punctuation can totally change the meaning of a phrase or sentence?

  45. Britt Johnston

    english is being taken over by aliens

    The problem has been pointed out since about 1800, before that alternative spellings were tolerated provided the content was worthwhile. But hot air and hotter tempers did not produce a result, only agreement that an language academy or esperanto were not viable solutions.

    Now that english is spoken by more aliens than aboriginals, they are naturally taking control, and ironing out the obvious lumps. Let it happen, english will be the better for it next century. If you still want to improve the standards, write a decent book.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Why just apostrophes?





  47. Jonah

    whingeing numpties

    Place names don't need apostrophes, we're not trying to deduce meaning from them. Who cares whether it's Sheppard's Bush or Sheppards Bush, or Blackfriar's Bridge as opposed to Blackfriars Bridge?

  48. Britt Johnston

    could be worse

    If you think apostrophes are bad, feel sorry for the Germans, who have to bundle together streets named after people with hyphens, as in Alexander-von-Humboldt-Straße.

    Looking at the new German finance minister's name, that's 15 hyphens, and a very long street sign (see yesterday's article about wikifiddlers)

  49. Frank

    Apostrophe Grant

    I'm setting up a sheltered breeding site for apostrophes, in my back garden. How do I go about getting a grant from the Apostrophe Protection Society?

  50. Anonymous Coward

    FFS it's not hard

    I think the general attitude to our language is sympomatic of people's lack of pride in what they do.

    If I look back at something that I've typed and I see a glaring typo or a badly spelled word, I reel in horror and shame. It's the same with everything I do, a principle that was hammered into me from an early age.

    Most people these days don't care about their driving skills, their manners, their humility or the poor guy rolling around on the street (in agony after being mugged for their iPhone) that they just walk past.

    What chance has our language?

  51. Anonymous Coward


    So what I'm to gather from all this is you're city/town/etc officials are exactly like the ones here on the other side of the pond. In other words generally inept tin Cesar's who waste entirely to much time on non issues while totally ignoring the important bits. Ok then, nice to see politicians are the same around the world.

  52. Tommy Pock


    @AC, It's actually; James' House - the house of Mr James. James's House - Mr James Smith's house. Apologies for the pedantry.

  53. John Savard

    One Note on English Grammar

    There might be a large number of area residents who can use apostrophes correctly, and it may also be true that a large number of the area's residents can use apostrophes correctly, but using "area's" without the "the" does not appear to me to be an example of correct English grammar.

  54. Eric Pedersen

    If correct spelling and punctuation isn't...

    the sign of education, then WTF is it??

    Does anyone else want to send Lynne Truss money so she can buy a sniper rifle?

  55. Anonymous Coward

    @ Jonah

    "Sheppards" ..... seriously?


    Apostrophes are the least of your problems if you think that's how it's spelled.

  56. Anonymous Coward


    Christ almighty. - it's "take pride in the English language" - not "take a pride in the English language."


  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I think you are quite right, nowadays it's that old expression "never mind the quality feel the width".

    You also reminded me of something else

    >in agony after being mugged for their iPhone

    I recently read that after a car accident most passerbys stopped to take pictures and videos of the scene using their mobile phones without going to the aid of the injured and that within 15 minutes a video had been posted on youtube.

  58. Pete "oranges" B.
    Paris Hilton

    RE:Andrew Garrard


    More to the point, why would anyone need a shorter way of sending the word "collator"?

  59. Anonymous Coward

    so let me ask something....

    If signs are printed/painted, and eyeballs are being used to read them.... in what way is that digitally transferring anything? And in what way does it matter?

    Apparently we have managed it so far.

    So... once it's painted, how / why does a street sign get transferred? And to where ??!

  60. Froemps

    Romanes eunt domus

    @ Britt Johnston

    Don’t worry, this would be the first finance minister to get a street named after him (at least in Germany) - it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

  61. john harding

    apostrophes are not grammar

    Anglo-Saxon, which was a fully-fledged Germanic language, had a possessive case. That's where we get our -s from. It works, and it didn't use apostrophes (which in any case didn't exist). 'King' was 'cyning' and 'king's' was 'cyninges'.

    We have no way of pronouncing an apostrophe, but we still understand each other.

    Strictly speaking, the written language ought to work perfectly well if we simply indicate the sounds of the spoken language. In practice there are cases where we can get further clarity or succinctness by using in writing resources which are not available in speech. Occasionally the apostrophe helps. Therefore, like all other pedants, I regret its erosion. A pity to lose something that occasionally comes in handy.

    However, the language is being eroded and it's perfectly natural that it should, just as it was natural that Anglo-Saxon should be eroded by - among other things - the Norman occupation.

    One interpretation of the Canute legend is that he commanded the sea to retreat in order to get it into the heads of his staff that there were limits to what he could do.

    Anyway, aphostrophe's aint grammar.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    @ Gav

    Missing apostrophes, how about entire words?

    "showing contempt for the large number of area's residents who take a pride in the English language"

    That's *the* area's residents.

    The other option is to move the apostrophe in "area's". If it is a number of areas rather than residents it should be "showing contempt for a large number of areas' residents"

    Aren't apostrophes fun!!?

  63. Rex Alfie Lee

    Egads! Shock, Horror!

    Get a life! The whole world has already dumbed down incredibly & as far as apostrophes' requirements are concerned, who gives a flying fox. Especially when it's a street name. The street doesn't actually own anything anyway so it's not true ownership. To all those pronouns (THEM) who sanctify their lives on this horse-crap, get a life!

  64. Anonymous Coward


    That is all.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just possessives.

    In Cambridge we have a road named Bene't Street. The full name of the road is Benedict Street but it is not signposted as such. St Benedict's Church, for which the road is named (we're imaginative with road names in Cambridge but at least it makes finding places easier!) is also more commonly referred to as St Bene'ts.

    @ John Harding: You are correct that we have no way of pronouncing apostrophes. What you do have when you listen to someone is nuance. With the written word, missing apostrophes can leave the meaning of a sentence so ambiguous that one has to read it through a couple of times, mentally applying a different nuance, to decide the correct meaning.

  66. Daisy O'Byrne


    Our province of Newfoundland & Labrador has a capital called "St. John's". Our province of New Brunswick has a capital called "St. John". To avoid confusion, we just remember that the apostrophe indicates and ocean between them. Without the apostrophe, how would we remember? I'm all for apostrophes!

  67. Chris Cook

    an old usenet post...

    Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC, the European

    Parliament has commissioned a feasibility study in ways of improving

    efficiency in communications between Government departments.

    European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is

    unnecessarily difficult - for example, cough, plough, rough, through and

    thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased programme of changes to

    iron out these anomalies. The programme would, of course, be

    administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.

    In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using 's'

    instead of the soft 'c'. Sertainly, sivil servants in all sities would

    resieve this news with joy. Then the hard 'c' could be replaced by 'k'

    sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this klear up

    konfusion in the minds of klerikal workers, but typewriters kould be

    made with one less letter.

    There would be growing enthusiasm when in the sekond year, it kould be

    announsed that the troublesome 'ph' would henseforth be written 'f'.

    This would make words like 'fotograf' twenty per sent shorter in print.

    In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted

    to reash the stage where more komplikated shanges are possible.

    Governments would enkourage the removal of double letters which have

    always been a deterent to akurate speling.

    We would al agre that the horible mes of silent 'e's in the languag is

    disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop thes and kontinu to read and writ as

    though nothing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the

    skem began and peopl would be reseptive to steps sutsh as replasing 'th'

    by 'z'. Perhaps zen ze funktion of 'w' kould be taken on by 'v', vitsh

    is, after al, half a 'w'. Shortly after zis, ze unesesary 'o kould be

    dropd from words kontaining 'ou'. Similar arguments vud of kors be aplid

    to ozer kombinations of leters.

    Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl

    riten styl. After tventi yers zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and

    evrivun vud fin it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drems of the Guvermnt

    vud finali hav kum tru.

  68. David Casler

    A New Medical Procedure?

    I think the procedure to remove apostrophes should be called an apostronectomy.

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