OUR language is under constant attack. The ‘greengrocer’s apostrophe’ has ceased to be a joke and is now a daily blight. And why? Well because the people who are in charge these days, the Powers That Be, were a lost generation who were so badly let down by their own education that they now think the rest of the country can’t spell or use grammar correctly either.
That’s why supermarket checkout signs still, with one honourable exception, summon punters with ’10 items or less’. That’s why a council in Devon wanted to drop apostrophes on street signs because “they confuse people”. No they fucking don’t. That’s why the BBC, which should be the bastion of spoken and written English, has redundant sub-editors shouting at the telly or hurling their wireless across the room on a daily basis.
Still, we can always rely on our much improved schools to make up for that lost generation, can’t we? Err… no.
In an article about school reports on the Guardian website today, which debated the merits of impersonal computer-generated messages against more personal, hand-written ones, the head of faculty at a Yorkshire comprehensive is quoted as saying: “At our school we used to have written reports, but they contained spelling and grammatical errors so we moved on to a tick-box computer programme”.
So let’s get this straight. The teachers at this school – the fucking teachers, for God’s sake – are incapable of putting together a simple report on a pupil without exposing their own ineptitude to parents? The mind boggles.
Cherish those apostrophes, folks, The way things are going, they won’t be around for long.
PS: I am painfully aware from previous experience that any article bemoaning poor spelling and grammar will inevitably contain at least three such cock-ups. Don’t waste your time pointing then out. I’ll just sit here and stew in my own unwitting stupidity.
The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan