An anonymous grammar vigilante has been seen in a video shared by the BBC, adding missing apostrophes where necessary and covering the ones that aren’t, for the past thirteen years, in Bristol. The “Banksy of punctuation” uses a stick called he calls the “apostrophiser” to get to those hard-to-reach, incorrectly punctuated signs.
— Jon Kay (@jonkay01) April 3, 2017
The video shows a person changing “gentlemens outfitters” to “gentlemen’s outfitters” and corrects “motor’s” to “motors” with the help of a sticker.
The function of the English apostrophe has many people genuinely confused. It can be used to indicate possession. When apostrophes are used for singular nouns ending in “s”, some choose to add an apostrophe and an additional “s”, while some end it at the apostrophe.
Ad-writers and sign-makers often misplace apostrophes or avoid using them and most of us learn to ignore it, but to Bristol’s grammar vigilante, an incorrectly punctuated sign is something that must be set right. He does not consider what he does a crime. To him, incorrect grammar and punctuation are far bigger crimes.
Should we care this much about an apostrophe? A recent case revolving around the Oxford comma makes us want to take the rules of grammar a lot more seriously.
However, in everyday life, incorrect grammar does not come with such dire consequences. Anybody who reads a sign for “Amys Nail’s” understands that the business is likely run by an Amy and you can get your nails done there.
Our education places great value on the rules of grammar. It hurts many people to see them distorted. This is probably why we derive so much satisfaction from seeing the grammar vigilante work to right Bristol’s grammatical “wrongs”.