A street sign for St. Paul's Square in Birmingham, England, drops… (David Jones / Associated…)
Re "Squiggle sparks a squabble," March 28
Although "squiggle" is not a term I would have used, as I have more than a proprietary interest in the subject, the improper use of the apostrophe is a continuing personal irritant. And as a regular victim of the inability of the Web to properly render my last name (is the apostrophe in it to be replaced by a dash or a space, or merely omitted?), I've long predicted that my grandchildren will be denominated Odonnell in a radical Sharia-like lopping off of the offending mark.
The mind boggles that anyone could think the correct use of said mark is confusing. Just omitting it from the subhead of the same day's article, "Shadow warrior misses the work," would change its meaning to indicate that the CIA-trained Afghan stonemason "gave militants GPS coordinates to Americans," implying that he assisted the Taliban instead of the other way around.
At least the squiggle/squabble article describes a problem that extends beyond our continental boundaries. I had thought it was only the United States that had failed its English students. But apparently the old saw about Britain and America — "two nations divided by a common language" — is not entirely on the mark.
(And the Apostrophe Protection Society has a new member.)
Just because the British speak the "queen's English" doesn't mean their grammar is better than Americans'. Watch BBC America and you'll be horrified at their grammar. My English cousin was surprised when I once said "had gotten," as it seems "gotten" isn't in the British vocabulary.
Paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw, England and America are separated by a common language. They're squabbling about road signs, not whether to kill off the apostrophe entirely. As far as road signs are concerned, I agree: Get rid of it.
The apostrophe issue notwithstanding, "St. Paul's Square" and "St. Pauls Square" are both wrong. The correct name should be "St. Paul Square."
The square is named after St. Paul. It is not his square. If he had created it 2,000 years ago and the square was his, then "St. Paul's" would be right. Assuming this is not the case, then being named after him, it's "St. Paul Square," just as Sepulveda Boulevard is not "Sepulveda's Boulevard."
And "St. Pauls" is wrong, no matter what.
Peter L. Tripodes
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