Apostrophe dilemmas

September 2011

Street signs, York

I was down in the Hungate area, having a nosey at the new bridge (more on that story later), when I noticed this street sign – for Adventurer’s Court and Cordwainer’s Court. I don’t pay much attention to signage, but I don’t think it’s that common for them to include apostrophes. Probably because it can be difficult to work out where they should go – and also because they’re not essential to understanding. St Stephen’s Road or St Stephens Road? – it doesn’t really matter, does it. In street names I often miss them out.

I once worked with someone who thought apostrophes should be abolished altogether, as they’re so often misused and misunderstood.

I’m not sure about the adventurers and their connection if any with this area, but as I recall, somewhere around here there was once a Cordwainers’ Hall. Or was it a Cordwainer’s Hall? For a group of cordwainers, or a single cordwainer? The former seems more likely. Are these new Courts named in honour of a single adventurer and a single cordwainer? Or groups of them?

It doesn’t really matter, as a quick Google search reveals that all the online listings advertising these properties miss out the apostrophes altogether. Which is probably the best way of dealing with it.

Badly punctuated advertising

More problematical is when apostrophes are proudly inserted where they shouldn’t be. Particularly when they’re on a big sign. The its/it’s choice has caught out most of us at some time, on the web or in print (yes, me included), and we’ve all made mistakes. Perhaps not so prominent and embarrassing as this one – which did after all involve the careful consideration of only six words – on a massive roadside advert.

Note re ‘cordwainer’ . . .

A now obsolete term for a shoemaker. (And not to be confused with a cordwangler.)

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.