English is a global language, connecting cultures, states and individuals, but when it comes to England, even the innocuous shop and street signs can do with some correction – and a vigilante has made it his mission to anonymously correct poor grammar.
Following Banksy, the iconic graffiti artist linked to the southwest English town of Bristol, the grammar vigilante has hit the headlines for quietly subbing signs in public places in the dead of the night, particularly removing extraneous apostrophes.
He remains unidentified, but told BBC he worked in the engineering sector. He was filmed going around Bristol with the necessary tools, tidying up punctuation on shop and street signs. He has been dubbed the “Banksy of apostrophes” – that is, without an apostrophe.
One of the signs he corrected was “Amys Nail’s”, because he thought it was “gross”. He said: “It was so loud and in your face. I just couldn’t abide it. It grates.” Another correction was to “Cambridge Motor’s”.
"I'm a grammar vigilante...I do think it's a cause worth pursuing,” he said, adding he corrected his first sign in 2003. “It was a (Bristol City) council sign – Mondays to Fridays – and had these ridiculous apostrophes. I was able to scratch those off.”
The correction in public places is done using a long stick and toolkit, and he insists it isn’t a crime. “I’m sticking on a bit of sticky back plastic. It’s more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong,” he said.
His effort reminded some that several signs in public places in India too could do with correction, if not a rewrite.
This is not the first time bad grammar in English is making news in Britain. There is the quirky Bad Grammar Award instituted by Idler magazine to highlight “the incorrect use of English by people and institutions who should know better”.