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Waterstones and Apostrophes: Battered on All Fonts

By Roger Tagholm

Fabulous! A whole debate about an apostrophe! The Brits eccentric? How dare you! If you’ve missed it, the UK trade is agonizing over Waterstone’s (sorry, Waterstones’) decision to drop the apostrophe from its name. New MD James Daunt thinks that in a digital world of URLs and e-mail addresses, Waterstones without an apostrophe is “a more versatile and practical spelling.” (Hey, Publishers Weekly has been sans an apostrophe forever…)

One can see his point, but you’ve got to feel sorry for these tiny bits of type. They’re battered on all fonts. The unstoppable rise of texting means that many people abandoned them long ago. Teenagers say that apostrophes are something that only their parents use — like e-mail. But a good many parents have let them drop too. And don’t even ask about semi-colons.

Right now McDonald’s must be looking at its signs and thinking: “Do we need that little fella? What a waste.” Just what Waterstones plans to do with its spare apostrophes remains to be seen. Three for two? No, they’ve ditched that. Put in brackets and sold in bundles? Boxed-up with the returns?

A solution might come from an unlikely corner. Cormac McCarthy might put in an offer for them – surprisingly, those little forgotten flecks are the one piece of punctuation he likes.

And sorry about the logo at the right, we just dont, errrr, don’t have the updated one just yet.

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  1. Posted January 14, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    After my own rant (cantshutitup.blogspot.com), and reading many others, your post offers a refreshing (and very true) twist! :)

  2. Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    I think dropping the apostrophe makes sense for digital purposes, but as a grammar nerd I think the resulting change in meaning is interesting. Instead of being named after the man who founded the company, now the book seller is named for the plural of stones used to sharpen blades. For the purpose of email and URLs, why not eliminate the apostrophe only in those cases?

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