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If you saw Page 7A of  your dead-tree edition of The Gazette this morning, you no doubt noticed that the esteemed leaders of Birmingham, England, have decided to do away with apostrophes on signs.

Somewhere, Cormac McCarthy was smiling.*

For another reaction, we could turn to my friend Jason, who posted the AP story on his Facebook page with the following comment: "What. The. Very Crude Word Describing the Act of Copulation." Only he didn't write the final eight words, if you catch my drift.

The world will keep spinning on its axis, of course, so I hesitate to use a word like "abomination" to describe this. To me, it's just sad. If I lived in Councilor Martin Mullaney's district, I would be appalled to hear him justify the move this way: "Apostrophes denote possessions that are no longer accurate, and are not needed. More importantly, they confuse people. If I want to go to a restaurant, I don't want to have an A-level (high school diploma) in English to find it."

It's a specious argument. Apostrophes or not, it doesn't take smarts to find a restaurant or, apparently, to win public office. And I've yet to meet anyone, anywhere, who was confused by proper punctuation. Oh, I know people who aren't quite sure how to wield it, but they aren't thrown by something that's rendered correctly.

What say you, readers: Are apostrophes a crucial aspect of the English language, or are they superfluous punctuation?

* -- I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've linked to Oprah's site. I'll try to exercise restraint as we move forward.

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