Meanings: A Propos of Apostrophes

April 3, 2011

And from CronkNews (“You Have a Lot to Learn”):

ACRL Special Edition: Writers Center Construction Stalled as Apostrophe Debate Can’t Be Resolved

Posted on Thursday, March 31st 2011

“It’s a shame we won’t have a writing center,” said Torry. “But $2 million doesn’t buy good grammar.”

Construction of the long-awaited James Dickey Writers Center at Ocala State University in Florida has been postponed indefinitely after key administrators could not come to an agreement about whether to include an apostrophe in the word “Writers.”

“It’s just good grammar,” said Professor of Feminist Literature Katherine Torry, who chaired the fundraising committee. “It’s a possessive. The Center belongs to writers and therefore deserves an apostrophe.”

“With all due respect, Dr. Torry is missing a key philosophical point,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs Brian Bates. “It is a place that celebrates writers. It is not a territory controlled by writers.”

The now-famed “Apostrophe Debate” began in 1997, when southern literary icon James Dickey passed away and a fan donated $2 million to the University so a center for literature could be built. The original planning committee was split on the apostrophe decision and found no clear precedent related to punctuation authority.

The decisions of both the OSUF president (pro-apostrophe, 2005) and subsequent reversal by the Board of Governors (2007) were challenged by the faculty, staff and students. In 2009, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the apostrophe but the Federal Supreme Court dismissed the case, stating that the University has the sole power to decide.

“It’s just not worth it anymore,” said the president. “We’ve decided to use the $2 million to build a new state-of-the-art paintball facility. Surveys have shown that students never really wanted a writing center anyway.”

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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One Response to Meanings: A Propos of Apostrophes

  1. Leah Wescott says:

    Thanks for the exposure, President Bennett! I hope a li’l old apostrophe won’t stop Earlham from its tremendous progress.

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