Are missing apostrophes more important than dying teenagers?

We report, you decide.

A bizarre battle is raging in towns across Britain between lovers of the English language and local councils that are culling the humble apostrophe from street signs.

The historic university city of Cambridge was the latest in a series of places this year that have made the change, which transforms names such as King’s Road into Kings Road.

Cambridge was forced to backtrack after anonymous punctuation protectors mounted a guerrilla campaign, going out in the dead of night and using black marker pens to fill in the missing apostrophes.

Apparently an apostrophe error earlier this year caused an ambulance to go to a wrong address, resulting in a teenager dying of an asthma attack.

“National guidelines recommended not allocating new street names that required any punctuation, as, we gather, this was not well coped with by some emergency services’ software,” Tim Ward of Cambridge City Council told AFP.

Although I’m not one of those who think the language is going to hell in a handbasket, I have some sympathy for the protesters who say the solution to the problem is not to make punctuation worse, but to make the software that emergency services use better.

On a vaguely related topic: At some point when I wasn’t paying attention, the Catholic Church seems to have removed the possessive from church and school names — at least in my neck of the woods.  When I was a lad,we lived in Saint Columbkille’s parish; this is now Saint Columbkille parish.  The parochial school down the street from me is Saint Paul School.  And so on.  A brief Google search indicates that if the school uses the possessive, “Saint Paul’s,” it’s Episcopalian.

The possessive doesn’t make a lot of sense in this context, I suppose.  Public schools don’t use it; there aren’t any Martin Luther King’s High Schools.  But the possessive usage for saints is so ingrained in my neurons that I’m always stopped short when I encounter the new style.

Next thing you know I’ll be demanding that the Mass return to Latin, which, after all, is the language that God speaks.

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