I may be on the brink of being banned from my local coffee shop. What have I done? Poured coffee on the floor? Ordered food and not paid? Been rude to the staff? None of these. I had the temerity to point out that there were superfluous apostrophes on their board outside. Not just one but five.  The board inside is pretty and perfect. I know because I check it, every time I go in. How anal is that? The board outside is their face to the world. It matters if it has spelling mistakes.

These were no ordinary plurals though. Yes, the usual potatoe’s was one, but the others show a lack of understanding of plurals in general. Take for instance sandwiche’s. The word was spelled correctly and the correct form of the plural was added. They just couldn’t leave it there though. They had to go and drop in an apostrophe before the final s. Variety of filling’s was another. Now this one stumped me- ciabatta’s. Should it be corrected to ciabattas or ciabatti or stay as ciabatta?

I peered carefully at the board to see if these little lines were flaws that were integral to the blackboard. They weren’t. I tried rubbing them out. I couldn’t. So I did what anyone who has the welfare of the coffee shop at heart. I went in and pointed out that all the apostrophes should be removed. I then ordered coffee.

This, according to my companion, was just about on the borders of what was permissible. However, I couldn’t let it rest. When I came to pay I repeated what I had said before- the shop was now empty- so no honour was involved. The girl said she understood and we left. My companion said that that had put me beyond the pale and I would be lucky to get served in there again.

There must have been some really strong teaching on apostrophes to instil the fear of missing one out, so much so they put them in everywhere. Shame that the teaching, or the receiving of the teaching, did not go far enough to make sure they only use them where appropriate. I would make it a rule of thumb that no blackboard outside shops or pubs should contain apostrophes. Ban punctuation, why not?

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