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John Green once said, “Let me just acknowledge that the function of grammar is to make language as efficient and clear and transparent as possible. But if we’re all constantly correcting each other’s grammar and being really snotty about it, then people stop talking because they start to be petrified that they’re going to make some sort of terrible grammatical error and that’s precisely the opposite of what grammar is supposed to do, which is to facilitate clear communication.”
Try telling this to a Grammar Nazi and chances are you will probably be laughed at or in extreme cases, shamed till you wish the ground would swallow you up. Some take it a little too seriously and one such man is this self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ from Bristol, England, who has spent over 13 years correcting bad punctuation on Bristol shop fronts and street signs in the dead of the night.
“I’m a grammar vigilante. I do take it to heart — I think it’s a cause worth pursuing. People might say what I am doing is wrong, but it is more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong in the first place”, he told the BBC, in a documentary called The Apostrophiser.
The documentary’s name is inspired by the choice of instrument this vigilante uses. Called the ‘apostrophizer’ – which is a broom handle laden with two sponges and a number of stickers – he uses it to reach otherwise unreachable surfaces. One of his most recent corrections was at Cambridge Motor’s garage, where an errant apostrophe in ‘Motor’s’ had annoyed him for years.
According to The Telegraph, Paul, who manages Cambridge Motor’s, said he caught the man more than two years ago. “We put up a sign and I caught him at the front attempting to scrub off permanent marker. I said to him, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘You’ve got a rogue apostrophe there’. He was a middle-aged bloke, he obviously lives locally and it’s just his pastime.”
But not everybody is happy with the intervention. Jason Singh, owner of tailors Tux & Tails, who was at the receiving end said, “I did take it lightly at first, but now I’m a little angry to be honest. We think it’s paint, and this is vinyl, so if we have to replace it you’re looking at a few thousand pounds. I understand, but at the end of the day I’d have preferred him to come in and tell me. I think it could be considered rather rude. I think there might even be grounds for a police complaint, and if his name is revealed, I’ll be sending him an invoice for the damages.”
What do you think about this pedant? Let us know in the comments below.