Sticklers

Everyone one looks, there are signs of ignorance and indifference. What about that film Two Weeks Notice? Guaranteed to give slung along the sides of buses in letters four feet , with no apostrophe in sight. I remember, at the start of the Two Weeks Notice publicity campaign in the spring of 2003, emerging cheerfully from Victoria Station(was I whistling?) and stopping dead in my tracks with my fingers in my mouth. Where was the apostrophe? Surely there should be an apostrophe on that bus? If it were “one month’s notice” there would be an apostrophe (I reasoned); yes, and if it were “one week’s notice” there would be an apostrophe. Therefore “two weeks’ notice” requires an apostrophe! Buses that I should have caught(the 73; two 38s) sailed off up Buckingham Palace Road while I communed thus at length with my inner stickler, unable to move or, indeed, regain any sense of perspective.

Part of one’s despair, of course, is that the world cares nothing for the little shocks endured by the sensitive stickler. While we look in horror at a badly punctuated sign, the world carries around us, blind to our plight. We are like the little boy in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people, except that we can see dead punctuation. Whisper it in petrified little-boy tones: dead punctuation is invisible to everyone else- yet we see it all the time. No one understand us seventh-sense people. They regard us as freaks. When we point out illiterate mistakes we are often aggressively instructed to “get a life” by people who, interestingly, display no evidence of having lives themselves. Naturally we become timid about making our insights known, in such inhospitable conditions. Being burned as a witch is not safely off the agenda. A sign has gone up in a local charity-shop window which says, baldly, “Can you spare any old records” (no question mark) and I dither daily outside on the pavement. Should I go in and mention it? It does matter that there’s no question mark on a direct question. It is appalling ignorance. But what will I do if the elderly charity-shop lady gives me the usual disbelieving stare and then tells me to bugger off, get a life and mind my own business?

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves.