Quote of the Day: Apostrophe Eradication in America


From Barry Newman of the Wall Street Journal, explaining why it’s Earl’s Court in London but Earls Court in Bloomington:

The U.S., in fact, is the only country with an apostrophe-eradication policy. The program took off when President Benjamin Harrison set up the Board on Geographic Names in 1890. By one board estimate, it has scrubbed 250,000 apostrophes from federal maps. The states mostly—but not always—bow to its wishes….The committee has granted only five possessive apostrophes in 113 years: Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.; Ike’s Point, N.J.; John E’s Pond, R.I.; Carlos Elmer’s Joshua View, Ariz.; and—in 2002—Clark’s Mountain, Ore.

It’s an apostrophe apocalypse! And there’s no appeal from the Borglike efficiency of the naming board: “We don’t debate the apostrophe,” says Jennifer Runyon, one of the committee’s three staffers. Resistance is futile.

(Except for Clark’s Mountain. How did that one get through? I sort of understand the other four exceptions, but what kind of clout did the Clark’s people bring to bear in order to browbeat their way into apostrophe nirvana?)

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