The Greengrocer’s Apostrophe Guerilla Group (GAGG) strikes again
You may know I am the founder and chairman of this loose association of individuals (as opposed to this association of loose individuals). We are informally constituted to actively and physically change any use of the greengrocer’s apostrophe wheresoever it is found. I do hope you know what a greengrocer’s apostrophe is, even if you (like many people I know) don’t know the definition of the rules about the correct use of apostrophes.
They drive me bananas (the incorrect apostrophes not really the greengrocers who sell the bananas or write the apostrophes) and I formed the group for those who also find their incorrect use frustrating, annoying and at worst infuriating. Some of you are saying, ‘OMG what’s he got under his bonnet NOW? The old guy has really lost the plot.’ The truth is that as far as the greengrocer’s apostrophe is concerned I have not only lost the plot but I’ve lost my seat, my programme, my popcorn, the way to the bar and the exit.
There is no excuse for the incorrect use of apostrophes, particularly on public signs. If the sign writer or composer is unsure then CHECK IT OUT. In 0.29 seconds Google found 1,320,000 results to this search. The top one (www.eng-lang.co.uk/apostrophe_rules.htm) gives the simple rules so I wont repeat them pedantically here.
I think I have already written about the worst one I have found so far this year. On a blackboard sign outside the café here at the estate was an advertisement for A Burns Night event. Except the writer had written Burn’s Night. I had to act and act now. I moved in surreptitiously, trying to avoid any look of the subterfuge in which I was involved. My heart was racing. Would I be discovered? There were customers in the window… My fingernail did the trick in an instant and the sign was correct. A strange gap between the ‘n’ and ‘s’ but nevertheless correct for all that. I wonder if anyone else had noticed it? Or cared? Certainly no self-respecting member of GAGG could have walked past it without taking action.
I obliterated another today, worse in some respects, as it betrayed a total lack of knowledge or any notion of grammatical awareness. A paper printed sign on the Big House Office door; Push Hard as Door Stick’s. Aghhhh.
I told the receptionist that as a member of GAGG I was taking the law into my own hands. I declared I was a member of the Greengrocer’s Apostrophe Guerilla Group. She looked at me as if I had gone out to lunch permanently. I calmly explained, showing her the incorrect sign. Still no light of understanding so I tore down the sign in her full view. I wasn’t aggressive or violent. I just tore it from its pins, screwed it up in a ball. I then couldn’t resist the temptation. I did a little sleight of hand with the screwed-up paper ball, and made it disappear. She will never look at me the same again. Her mouth and her eyes opened just a fraction wider. I apologised but said that she would need to write another sign without the incorrect apostrophe. It was all wasted. She said ‘It doesn’t matter because it’s the summer now and we only close that door in the winter.’
‘Give me strength’, said Dougall.
If you are interested in joining GAGG, there is no membership fee, just email me your favourite examples of the greengrocer’s apostrophe and some evidence or anecdote of your linked and appropriate guerilla activity to stamp out this vile and educationally-vacuous activity in our great English-speaking (and writing) lands.
All the best from a road near you,