Apostrophes, politics, and village pubs. It’s the news from Britain

The Apostrophe Protection Society has closed its doors

The group was founded in 2001 to preserve “the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark,” but the APS website says, “We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!”

The website also warns us to beware of fake news: The site itself isn’t closing down. If you have a burning question about, say, whether an inanimate object can own something, look no further; It has an answer. You can also find advice about the difference between fewer and less

You’ll sleep better at night knowing it’s still there, right? Although I could argue that the exclamation point they used is excessive.

Not that I would or anything.


Irrelevant photo: azalea blossoms. For some reason, this came into bloom in the fall.

When one door closes, some totally unrelated one opens, and they have nothing to do with each other. The International Bank Vault has opened its doors in London, but only to billionaires. 

Millionaires? Pfui. 

No, I don’t know how to pronounce that either, and it’s not a quote from their promotional literature. Oddly enough, they haven’t sent me their promotional literature.

Yeah, I know. It was an oversight.

What they offer, as far as I can figure out, is safety deposit boxes. The smallest one is a steal at £600 a year. Want me to order a couple for you? Each one is big enough for some jewellery and “a fair few gold bars; they’re only the size of your mobile phone” said someone or other who’s very important and knows the size of a gold bar.

I’d link you to their website but it’s boring. They do that to keep the riff-raff out.


This might be a good time to mention that the six richest people in the UK control as much wealth as the poorest 13 million. (And that was before the recent election. I don’t know about you, but I expect a further tip richward.) That’s about £39.4 billion on each side. That’s a lot of money, but it’s less (please note: not fewer) if you have to split it with 13 million other people. 

Actually, that’s 13.2 million. And I’m having trouble finding anything funny about it.


Scientists at the University of Bath have brewed up artificial neurons that–if they fulfill their promise, the human race survives long enough, and the crick don’t rise–could un-paralyze people, snap the hazy brain circuits of dementia back into sharp focus, correct a form of heart failure, and connect minds to machines. That last achievement may be more fun for the humans than for the machines.

The artificial neurons are built into tiny, low-power chips that can plug right into the nervous system. I mention this not because it’s funny but because it’s interesting. And because none of us are getting any younger.


A study in the U.S. shows that smartphones are causing dumb injuries. People are walking into lamp posts while messing around with their phones–reading articles on nuclear physics or texting or doing whatever people do on their phones while walking into lamp posts. The problem’s serious enough that Salzburg has installed airbags on lamp posts “to raise awareness of the dangers.”

Not to prevent immediate injuries?

Apparently not. 

The article also mentions injuries from exploding batteries and “the phone hitting the face,” which makes it sound like that happens by itself or that the phone does deliberately. And maybe it does. A phone can get tired of being the conduit for all the trivialities of our weary little lives. You know what people are like. Bash one of them in the face, though, and wow, does that change the conversation. I’ve been tempted to try it myself from time to time, but it’s hard to mistake me for a smartphone, so I’ve resisted.

If those chips do connect our minds to our machinery, think how much more often this will happen.

About half the injuries were caused by people using the phone while they drove. Ninety (out of 76,000  injuries seen in 100 hospitals between 1998 and 2017) involved people playing Pokemon Go. One involved a man stepping on a snake while he crossed a parking lot looking at his phone. The good news? The incident was caught on camera. Possibly by him but more likely by someone who thought it made more sense to film it than to yell, “Look out for the snake.”

I couldn’t find any information on how the snake is. Sorry.

About 60 percent of the injuries were to people between 13 and 29, who make up considerably less than 60 percent of the population. That means either that people learn to be more careful as they get older or that a sizable number of people 30 and over don’t know how to work a smartphone. Me included.


You probably already know this, but Donald Trump tweeted that Greta Thunberg should “work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!” 

Thunberg responded by changing her bio on Twitter: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”

Two points to Thunberg. A few spare capital letters to Trump. Not because he’s earned them but because he spends them profligately and will use up his supply any day now.


As newly elected prime minister, Boris Johnson announced that he was going to lead a one-nation government. “Let the healing begin,” he said.

That was shortly after he celebrated his victory by announcing that Remainers should “put a sock in it.”

Yes, folks, we’ve entered a time of healing and goodwill over here.


A bit of chewed birch tar found in southern Denmark has yielded the complete DNA of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago, at the start of the neolithic period. Like the early British settler Cheddar Man, whose DNA led to a reconstruction not long ago, she would have had dark hair and skin and blue eyes. 

She would have been a hunter-gatherer, one of a group of people who lived beside a brackish lagoon, and was more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those from central Scandinavia.


A survey of 5,000 British teachers asked what they’d prefer as Christmas gifts from their students. Most of them said a handmade card rather than alcohol or chocolate or whatever else parents think up. 

The exception? Primary school teachers. One explanation is that they’ve seen enough kids’ drawings and they’ve reached their limit. The other–and this one comes from me, so treat it with all the care and suspicion it deserves–is that they need the alcohol more than secondary teachers do.


Feel-good story of the week: A small village in Northumberland (in case you’re not British, that’s somewhere way the hell up in the north, but in England, not all the way to Scotland) went online to raise money in the hope of buying its pub to run as a community business. The village had already lost its shop, its post office, and its village hall. The pub is the last public space it has left, and no one was interested in buying it–except the residents, who didn’t have the money. 

If you’re British you already know this, but for the rest of youse, pubs aren’t just places to drink. They’re social spaces. The fundraising website describes it as “the centre of our village. It is our meeting place, our venue for community events and celebrations, a boon for our older residents and, in short, is the lifeline of our village.

No community owned pub has ever gone bankrupt in England, they work really well – but we need to buy it first!”

The village consists of a couple of hundred people and needed a minimum of £200,000 to buy the pub, so it turned to the outside world. Just before Christmas, with four days to go, it had raised £186,000. Those were pledges not to make donations but to buy shares. When I checked on Christmas Eve, the site said they’d put in a bid and it had been accepted.

If you collect strange pronunciations of British place names, the nearby Bellingham is pronounced Belling-jum.

No, don’t ask me. I learned it from the website and understand nothing.

99 thoughts on “Apostrophes, politics, and village pubs. It’s the news from Britain

  1. Is it bad that my first thought was concern for the snake that got stepped on, so I was disappointed you didn’t know how it was? Well, whatever. I’m more concerned for the poor snake than the idiot too busy with their phone to watch out for it.

    I don’t know the number of people this happens to, but if you’re interested, there are a lot of people who walk in to lamp posts because they’re too busy staring at passing blind people using canes too. At least, it’s happened to a fair few people who stare at me. Makes me think the lamp posts will be glad of the air bags…

    Liked by 7 people

    • I was concerned about the snake too, which is why I raised the question, but since the information was filtered through hospital reports, then reporters, then newspaper editors, whatever information there might have been was lost.

      I’ve never seen anyone walk into a lamppost while staring at a blind person using a cane, but I can easily believe it happens. I wonder if the lampppost-bumpers learn anything. When I was a kid, I walked home from the store reading a comic book I’d just bought and not only walked into a lamppost but apologized to it. I learned enough never to do either again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Blimey Ellen, I think you are in danger of having socialist sympathies pointing out that the 6 richest people own the equilivant wealth of the poorest 13 million! Taking of snakes there was a story of a snake that was being taken home for Christmas that escaped from his container in the car and was eventually tracked down to inside the gear box (I think). The car had to be dismantled to rescue him. His name was Alan, now I think about it. I think I would have had less sympathy for the snake but once I knew he had a name and it was Alan that endeared him to me (I am not a snake fan). Anyway he was rescued Ok and warmed up but I am not so sure the car was OK after all that dismantling.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Butchers and greengrocers across the land are no doubt celebrating the demise of the APS, but pedants such as I are in mourning. It’s a sad day for our country, and even the news that the Human Mop has told us that we live in one nation has done nothing to dissipate my gloom. I think that might be fake news, anyway. But I’m cheered by knowing how to pronounce Bellingham: given the way the accent up there mangles the English language I’m rather relieved that they don’t call it ‘Bum.’

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was afraid apostrophes had become extinct, and now I know for sure. Signwriters do not seem to use them anymore and the majority of the population don’t care, but I’m always sorely tempted to add missing apostrophes with a permanent marker!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We have our own Bellingham here in Ireland. Scroll down to the sub-heading “Laois” in the linked post to find this: “Portlaoise Town Council heard last week that putting the name ‘Bellingham’ on a roundabout on the Mountrath Road was akin to a suburb of Paris being called ‘Hitlerville’ after the Nazi occupation of France. Cllr Brian Stanley (SF) told the council that neither the councilors nor the people of Portlaoise were happy with the label ‘Bellingham’, which, although claimed to be historically appropriate, was the name of the commander of an army of occupation of the town. The name had been given to the estate adjoining the roundabout and then to the roundabout itself, which is on the main road.” https://www.irishcentral.com/news/news-from-around-the-irish-counties-237651911. The former Cllr Stanley is now one of our local TDs (that’s Irish for MP) so it pays to know your history!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think the Apostrophe Society should have brushed up on their authoring / content creation skills. They may have been more popular if their website had progressed beyond the early 2000s.
    That may be a bit harsh, but I am going with it!

    Yes, putting a sock in it, that makes me feel so much more good-will-y
    Ok, read out loud that sentence does not really read as I intended…but its done now. Maybe putting a sock on it would be better… I still wouldn’t feel it though. I might have got sidetracked…

    I used to teach. I think the best present many kids could have given me was to not come to school. Not so much a present really as an absent…
    I don’t think that is in keeping with the spirit of teaching mind you. Which is probably why I don’t do it any more.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I kinda don’t agree with the lamppost airbag thing. I watch some of these people blundering across busy roads with their heads down over their phones and think it should be Natural Selection in action. Is that wrong?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Looks like my coment didn’t appear – maybe because I used the back tab to return to Stevie’s site. So here goes again. If yiou scroll down the post at this link (https://www.irishcentral.com/news/news-from-around-the-irish-counties-237651911) you will find a bit about our own local Bellingham from a few years ago.
    Portlaoise Town Council heard last week that putting the name ‘Bellingham’ on a roundabout on the Mountrath Road was akin to a suburb of Paris being called ‘Hitlerville’ after the Nazi occupation of France. Cllr Brian Stanley (SF) told the council that neither the councilors nor the people of Portlaoise were happy with the label ‘Bellingham’, which, although claimed to be historically appropriate, was the name of the commander of an army of occupation of the town. The name had been given to the estate adjoining the roundabout and then to the roundabout itself, which is on the main road.” The former Cllr. Stanley is now one of our TDs (that’s Irish for MP). Goes to show it pays to know your history!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A grand post as usual. You routinely give me information I don’t know and am so out of touch I don’t even know I don’t know it. Take the info on artificial neurons, for example. I found this a glimmer of hope for those of us who aren’t getting any younger by the minute. I have long suspected I needed complimentary artificial body parts to keep up with my articial knees. What good is it to be able to walk if you don’t know where you’re going.
    Alas, I fear this is a moot point because Agent Orange will be the apocalypic cause of all cricks to rise with his ongoing denial of climate change and continually poking a stick at the always prickly Iran. A great start to 2020.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Inanimate object ownership question. In Athens, Georgia near the University of Georgia campus, there is an oak tree that owns itself.
    Years ago the owner of the land left the tree to itself in his will. It is in a subdivision now, in the middle of a round a bout circle, not in anyone’s yard. Not sure if the tree owns the property it sits on or not. Drove by to see it once. It is pretty old now. Sitting there by itself on a little island near the top if a hill. So there us at least one inanimate object that owns itself. Note: Athens was settled primarily by people from England. Who else would recognize the rights of a tree to own itself, snd respect the wishes of its owner to preserve it in such way.

    I see I used an apostrophe above. Someone should be happy.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Not much I can add to this (EGG’S TURN IN is a local classic.) And you already did a hat tip to your countrys’ (more than one, right?) nut job not starting a w bansheear.
    But as to the research I promised l ast post :turns out there IS a Scottish version of the Banshee.It’s the Bean Nighe and I couldn’t begin to know how to pronounce that.https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-europe/songs-and-shrouds-mythical-banshee-and-bean-nighe-harbingers-002876

    Liked by 1 person

    • Egg’s turn in? Even ignoring the apostrophe, I’m baffled. It’s past their bedtime and they decide to turn in?

      Thanks for the link, and for the research. I’ll check it out and refrain from speculating on or making jokes about the pronunciation.


  12. With all the money you assuredly make from this website (and Lord Goggle) I would assume you’d be the first person the bank would contact to buy a deposit box. Probably some kind of snobbery about your not being a pure-blood Brit.

    I’ve never been concerned about how much money other people have. I have enough to live a comfortable life, anything more and I’d just waste it on safety deposit boxes. I’ve know quite a few wealthy people, and they don’t seem any happier than I am, and get hit up a lot to give their money away for every cause from planting a tree in the Sahara to saving punctuation marks.

    Back in the 50’s Isaac Asimov wrote a short story about a time in the future where hand-held devices, connected to a world-wide computing system, could answer any question and solve any mathematical problem. A teacher claimed that he could also solve mathematical problems in his head, really tough ones like 1+1, 24/8, even 13*20. They sentenced him to death for heresy. From what I’ve seen by the young people I’ve encountered at the checkout that time is almost upon us. I do nasty things like when they tell me I owe them $2.23, I give them $3.00, then when they start getting out the change the register says I’m owed I suddenly find $0.23 in my pocket and give it to them, then wait the endless moments while they try to figure out that they just need to give me the $1.00 back. Some just can’t do it, so I offer to take the $0.23 back and you can see them relax…except for a few who are even more confused than before.

    Did Boris say which government that was going to be? Maybe France? England and France have had such a good relationship, historically speaking. I’m sure they won’t mind his taking them over.

    I lost 41 lbs last year, if I find them I’d be willing to send them to the village as my contribution, if you think it would help.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. If so many people are abusing the apostrophe, what’s the status of the poor semicolon? As for a hand made card instead of alcohol, I guess I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Even as a student, I would have preferred alcohol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The nice thing about the semicolon is that almost no one knows what it’s actually for. A small cult keeps its shrine, but most people aren’t aware of it enough to misuse it. The few people who do announce their ambitions if, unfortunately, not their competence (she wrote snobbishly).

      I hear what you’re saying about teaching. Maybe people self-select for the profession, with the handmade-card people drifting in that direction and the alcohol people marching toward the door.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. There have been numerous incidents of people in downtown Toronto being hit by cars because they’re too busy looking at their phones. Texting and driving is banned here, but people still do it, albeit more surreptitiously. Me, I just wish people would get out of the way instead of stopping at the top of escalators to check Instagram…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A society for protecting the apostrophe, really? WOW! Going to take a look at their site. Oh gosh, speaking of excessive exclamation point usage, I’m guilty of that! Just can’t help it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Happiness, depression, drunks, and codpieces. It’s the news from Britain. | Notes from the U.K.

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