Saving punctuation mark's 

Rosie Right

Rosie's friend Neil Henry has alerted her to a fine new organization and its Web site (www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk). Founded this year by John Richards, a former journalist, The Apostrophe Protection Society has "the specific aim of preserving the correct use of this … abused punctuation mark in all forms of text written in the English language."

Quite unfairly (it seems to Rosie), the society won one of the 2001 Ig Nobel Prizes for "research that cannot or should not be replicated." These prizes are awarded by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research, based at Harvard (www.improbable.com/ig/ig-top.html). John Richards won the award for "Literature."

On his Web page Mr. Richards posts pictures of signs that contain apostrophic error, and he enumerates the rules for the proper use of the apostrophe telling us:

"We are aware of the way the English language is evolving during use, and do not intend any direct criticism of those who have made the mistakes above. We are just reminding all writers of English text, whether on notices or in documents of any type, of the correct usage of the apostrophe should you wish to put right mistakes you may have inadvertently made."


In an e-mail, Mr. Richards tells Rosie that he started this society in February/March and since he was "recognized" with the award he has "received letters from over 800 people, mainly in the UK, USA and Australia, wanting to join." He adds, "Membership involves only supporting our aims and distribution of copies of the enclosed letter when they feel it is necessary (there are no membership fees)."

Dr. Henry found the site on a page that listed the 2001 awards. While Rosie feels that the Apostrophe Society didn't deserve to be denigrated, what do you think of the winners in medicine and physics?

Medicine: "Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts." [published in The Journal of Trauma, vol. 21, no. 11, 1984, pp. 990-1.]

Physics: David Schmidt of the University of Massachusetts for his partial solution to the question of why shower curtains billow inward.

Euphemism complaint:

The death of civilians from bombing is, today, often termed collateral damage. Webster's New World College Dictionary tells us that collateral means "side by side; parallel, parallel time, rank, importance etc; … accompanying or existing in a subordinate, corroborative or indirect relationship."

This sounds like jargon and fairly cold for a description of death. Rosie is, she knows, giving away her age, but she remembers that during World War II the United States was not afraid to use the term civilian casualties. Perhaps we should try that term again.

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825, ext. 322), letter (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, Va. 23230), or e-mail repps@styleweekly.com.


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