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The Little Lost Apostrophe at Christmas


‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the land, it was easy to tell that Christmas again was at hand.  And out in the cold and the snow wandered a Little Lost Apostrophe, trying to find the right place to be. He needed to prove himself to the Abolitionists who just wanted him to wither and die, and that would be a catastrophe for the apostrophe. But everybody was so busy rushing around, doing their Christmas shopping and feeding the commercial cornucopia that they had no time to find the right place for the little lost apostrophe.

It was panto season of course, and as he looked up at an advertisement, a well meaning passer by took pity. Suddenly, he had a home, and the sign now read, ‘Babe’s in the Wood’.  But just as our little friend was settling in tucked up before that s, there was uproar. Had the Abolitionists found him?

‘Babe’s in the wood?’ voices exclaimed.

‘Who is Babe?’ asked others.

‘No, it’s a baby lost in the wood.’

Little Lost Apostrophe suddenly felt out of place and ill at ease. Was he the cause of all this?

Then people were saying, ‘That apostrophe is in the wrong place!’

‘Oh no it isn’t!’ cried some.

‘Oh yes it is,’ responded others.

Then the voice of the Abolitionists was heard, ‘We can’t cope with this, better if it wasn’t there at all, or anywhere.’

Just then, a looming figure appeared on the scene. It was the Ghost of Pedants Present. (He actually wanted to be the Ghost of Pedants Future as well, but he sometimes felt as though he were fighting a lost cause.)

People shrank back as the Ghost of Pedants Present came closer except for the signwriter who had come to see what the fuss was about. He didn’t see the Ghost of Pedants Present approaching.

The people shouted a warning, ‘The Ghost of Pedants Present is coming!’

‘Where?’ replied the puzzled signwriter, who was sure his sign had read ‘Babes in the Wood’.

‘He’s behind you!’ they shouted.

The signwriter turned to see the Ghost of Pedants Present brandishing a small, red, hardback book.

‘See, Abolitionists,’ the Ghost of Pedants Present proclaimed, ‘I have here the little red book that will solve your problems.’

The Little Lost Apostrophe quivered, wondering what Chairman Mao had written about apostrophes. Do they have apostrophes in Chinese? he wondered.

Quickly seeing the need to defend himself, the signwriter shouted, ‘I am the one and only, unique among signwriters for I know where to place the apostrophe. I did not put that there. It must be sabotage by the Abolitionists.’

‘Never,’ denied the Abolitionists. ‘We wouldn’t know where to put it, so we wouldn’t take the risk!’

‘But now you can know,’ said the Ghost of Pedants Present, ‘for it’s all in the little red book.’

‘It’s too complicated,’ said the restless crowd, spurred on by Abolitionist agitators. ‘Too many rules to remember.’

‘But you’re wrong,’ said the Ghost of Pedants Present with triumph in his voice. ‘There is only one rule, just one, and it’s all in the little red book.’

The Little Lost Apostrophe was becoming increasingly distressed at all this, and knew now that he was in the wrong place. ‘Help me!’ he cried out.

Well meaning hands whipped him down from the sign which once again read ‘Babes in the Wood’.  He was rushed away. ‘We’ll find you a new home,’ he heard. And then, there he was, in ‘Puss in Boot’s’.

The crowd caught up, including the Abolitionists and the Ghost of Pedants Present.

‘No,’ said a frustrated Ghost of Pedants Present, ‘that’s neither a possessive nor a contraction, just a plural.’

‘See what we mean?’ said the Abolitionists, ‘Nobody can get it right.’

The signwriter took down the Little Lost Apostrophe who was now most anxious, and set off. They came upon another sign.

‘Ah,’ said the Ghost of Pedants Present with satisfaction to the signwriter, ‘you’re not as clever as you thought.’  And he pointed dramatically at the sign, which said, ‘Dick Whittingtons Rock & Roll Panto’.

‘Not my work,’ said the signwriter crossly, ‘for I too have read the little red book. But now we have a home for our Little Lost Apostrophe.’

Amid cheers, he lifted the Little Lost Apostrophe into place, ensuring the sign correctly read, ‘Dick Whittington’s Rock & Roll Panto’.

The crowd looked to the Ghost of Pedants Present for confirmation.

‘That is correct, because the apostrophe sits in place of a missing letter, and that is all it ever does,’ said the Ghost of Pedants Present.

‘Tell us more,’ they called out, including the Abolitionists. ‘What is in the little red book?’

‘It’s called Apostrophe Catastrophe and it explains it perfectly so you need never worry again.’

‘Where can we get it?’ was the desperate response.

‘It’s published by The History Press, and good independent book shops should have it, even garden centres, or you can order it from major bookshops or online,’ said the Ghost of Pedants Present.

There was a huge sigh of relief, and the Little Lost Apostrophe watched happily as they went on their many ways, determined to read the little red book, Apostrophe Catastrophe.

Those that did lived happily ever after.

By Patrick C. Notchtree

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