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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Nuts and Bolts: a big difference.

Yes, yes, I know that apostrophes have been used in varied ways over the centuries, but sometimes they do make a big difference.

Sir Robin Mountfield has died. He was a very senior civil servant, and also a grammatical stickler, who came up with my favourite example of how, occasionally, apostrophes really matter.

This example was a World War 2 headline, and it described a German army advance which had succeeded in surrounding part of the French army.

It said:

GERMANS' PUSH BOTTLES UP FRENCH REAR.

As Sir Robin pointed out so persuasively, without the apostrophe it could have had a rather different meaning.

Thing To Use Today: apostrophe. This word has come to us through Latin from the Greek word apostrephein, which, oddly, means to turn away.

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