Tuesday 4 December 2007

Arkansas introduces Apostrophe Act

I can't believe I missed this story from earlier this year. It's a classic.

At a time when the governor of the US state of Arkansas Mike Beebe was busy declaring a number of counties as disaster areas due to thunderstorms and tornadoes, the state Senate was supporting a resolution declaring... “Arkansas’s” as the correct way to write the state’s possessive case.

The Arkansas Senate voted to support the resolution introduced by Rep. Steve Harrelson, a Democrat from Texarkana, who argued that adding apostrophe-s makes sense. Apparently (and you learn something new every day), although Arkansas became a US state in 1836, formalising its spelling was complicated by maps from the time often dropped its final “s.” A resolution by the Arkansas Legislature in 1881 formalised the state’s current spelling and pronunciation, making its final “s” silent.

Harrelson introdued the resolution on behalf of Parker Westbrook, who describes himself as a “longtime practical Arkansas historian.” Westbrook described the Senate vote as a vindication for his long-held view and told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazzette (which does not use the extra 's') that "we’ve waited 126 years for this.”

Harrelson, who apologised repeatedly to legislators about the attention the bill had received, said he had no regrets, although he has no plans to offer additional grammar-related bills in the future.

“I’ll tell you I never expected all the attention I received on this resolution,” Harrelson said. “I did this as a gesture and tribute to a well-known historian. I was glad I did it for him.”

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