The Twittersphere is apoloplectic, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph are slightly indignant, The Guardian is archly cynical. What about?

A bookshop has dropped the apostrophe from its name.

I must admit, I hadn’t particularly noticed whether it was there or not. But now they’ve got themselves some publicity by changing their branding from the grammatically correct Waterstone’s to the “more versatile and practical” Waterstones.

Upset about the change, the Apostrophe Protection Society said “It’s just plain wrong…[it’s] slapdash with English.” (Incidentally, this organisation/one man crusade may understand punctation, but it has no idea about design – the website is hideous.)

On BBC Radio FiveLive at lunchtime, I heard a spokeswoman from the Queen’s English Society similarly condemning the change. She (rightly) said that punctuation and grammar were all about effective communication, which rather contradicted her rising anger.

Waterstones’ decision is about better communication. It’s about branding and marketing; how the word looks, and what people associate with that brand. The sense hasn’t really changed.

When I buy a pair of Clarks shoes or go to Boots, I’m not confused because the name is a plural not a possessive. I imagine Sainsbury’s have kept their apostrophe because it makes the ubiquitous supermarket feel more like a local shop, not because they’re grammar pedants.

So the little superscript mark won’t die out – it’s far too useful. I am slightly concerned, however, that the predictive text on my phone didn’t even contain the word ‘apostrophe’…

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