Peter Whiley Newsletter & E-Bulletin Editor

Welcome everyone to yet another edition of IATEFL’s E-Bulletin, the monthly update on all news related to the worlds of ELT and IATEFL Poland. In this edition, there is another article from Geoff Tranter in the “Not a lot of People Know That” column,  whereby he explains the intricate uses of the apostrophe,  and shows us the more common type of errors made. It is an interesting, entertaining text, one you will enjoy reading, I promise. Also, I will add a small contribution to the theme of punctuation, and why it is so important. How often at conferences do we get presentations on punctuation, or more specifically, apostrophes?  Hardly ever, I would suggest.  So, full marks go to Geoff for this month’s contribution to our enlightenment.
Marta Bujakowska, the International Liaison Officer, used to travel to conferences, as part of her IATEFL Poland duties, to strengthen our links with the hosting organisations.  In November, 2020, for reasons well-known, she digitally visited the Annual TESOL France Conference, accompanied by Lucyna Wilinkiewicz-Górniak, Małgorzata Bukowska-Ulatowska, and Marcin Stanowski.  In this edition of the Bulletin, she presents a colourful report of the event, with some visuals.  The event that takes place in Paris, is always one of the most memorable in the ELT calendar, well worth a visit.

2021 – IATEFL Poland is 30 years old!

2021 is an important year for IATEFL Poland – as it’s our 30th  Anniversary!  In the recently prepared Post-Conference/Meet-Up Journal, we commemorate it with a quiz. In this Bulletin, we include another mini-quiz……..and ask you to tell us if you have been a member for the full 30 years.  If you went to the first Conference in Karniowice, in 1992, what is your best memory of it?  So, here is a list of 20 leading IATEFL figures…….and your task is to figure out if they have been IATEFL Poland members for the full 30 years, or not, if they have been more recent members only.

Here’s the list of 20 names………..simply send me the names of those people who have been with IATEFL for its full duration so far…..My contact address is: newsletter@iatefl.org.pl   You are allowed to ‘phone a friend’ to solve this tricky research quiz.  How many people have been members for 30 years? 3, 5, 6, 12, or even more?

     1. Andrzej Obstawski    2.  Danuta Sołtyska     3.  Elżbieta Jarosz 

4.  Danuta Rurańska      5.  Anna Hućko          6.  Dorota Chromińska

7.  Marcin Stanowski      8.  Marta Bujakowska   9.  Ewa Mroczka

10. Anna Gębka-Suska    11.  Anna Rogalewicz-Gałucka

12. Grzegorz Śpiewak      13. Geoff Tranter     14.  Peter Whiley

15. Malgorzata Bukowska-Ulatowska      16.  Urszula Kropaczewska

17.  Joanna Leszkiewicz     18.  Alicja Gałązka 

       19.  David Fisher                20.  Lucyna Wilinkiewicz-Górniak

*****Please inform me if you have been a member for the thirty years, or most of them.  Were you in Karniowice for the first Conference? We’d like to hear from you!

“Not a lot of People Know That!”

-          Here is Geoff Tranter’s article on the uses and importance of the apostrophe…..

‘The Dreaded Apostrophe – OR – The Apostrophe Catastrophe?’

Quite apart from the difficulties that many advanced learners of English, not to mention a number of native speakers, have with the pronunciation of the word, the correct use of apostrophes in written English causes problems galore, even for educated speakers of the language. There are, of course, hard and fast rules that can be found on many websites,  and in a multitude of reference books offered by the major publishers, but confusion still reigns. Examples can be found everywhere. Just take a stroll down the local High Street in any village, town, or city in the United Kingdom, and look at the special offer signs outside the shops and supermarkets. You will invariably find signs like “Best Banana’s  1.50 per pound” or “New Pototoe’s”, and if you are really (un)lucky, you might even find “Peach’s 1 a punnet” on offer! For this reason, such errors are often referred to as the “Greengrocer’s Apostrophe”.

It is not only greengrocers that commit such appalling apostrophe sins. If you walk along the same High Street, and come to a café or takeaway, you will quite often find them selling “pizza’s”, “sausage’s”, “burger’s”, “kebab’s”, even “drink’s”!  Whilst in pubs, when you need to go to the toilets, after three or four pints of good real ale, you might have to follow the sign “Gent’s” or “Gents Room” ” or “Ladies’ or “Ladies Room”, as the case may be.

Local authorities also have similar problems with the names of streets in their locality. Even though you can find street names with the correct use of the apostrophe, as in “ST. CHAD’S PLACE” in London WC1, it is not uncommon to see street names such as “BAKERS VIEW” or “ST. JAMES STREET”. As a result of the apparent confusion on the part of local authorities, on whether apostrophes should be used or not, some local councils, e.g. Birmingham, Mid-Devon, and Wakefield, actually voted to omit the apostrophe on principle. There was also once an “apostrophe war” at Nottingham City Council, where the Council's leader, Graham Chapman, fed up with the incorrect use of apostrophes, decided enough was enough, challenging his Chief Executive, John Jackson, to pay a forfeit to charity, every time a council document prepared by officers contained such an error. The staff had to cough up £1 every time they made a mistake.

The issue seems to have caused bursts of outrage on the part of local residents, but a decision is a decision. The ambivalence in such matters becomes even clearer if you happen to visit Jersey and walk along “QUEENS ROAD”, where, according to an article published on the BBC website on the 13th of November,2014, - “on one side of the road the sign has an apostrophe, and on the other, it doesn’t.”   

Not surprisingly, the emotive nature of such a state of language affairs has produced passionate supporters and opponents of the use of the humble apostrophe.  ” In one camp, we have the self-appointed ‘apostrophe killers’, ” (https://www.killtheapostrophe.com/) who believe that the apostrophe is completely superfluous, claiming that “most of them dont (sic!) add anything and simply increase the chances of making an error in academic essays or reports”.  A similar group was the “Association for the Annihilation of the Aberrant Apostrophe”, established by the author, Keith Waterhouse, back in the 1980s.

In the opposing camp, we have the Apostrophe Protection Society (http://www.apostrophe.org.uk/), which was founded by John Richards back in 2001, with the specific aim of “preserving the correct use of this currently much abused punctuation mark” in all forms of text written in the English Language. Although he retired in November, 2019, the website is still accessible, and offers a wide range of useful information on the use and misuse of apostrophes. In 2014 and 2015, there was even an “International Apostrophe Day”.

However, the most famous of all apostrophe supporters must be the “Apostrophe Vigilante”, who operated anonymously in the Bristol area, a few years ago. Under cover of darkness, he would cycle around Bristol, armed with a ladder correcting all the erroneous uses and non-uses of the apostrophe. The owners of a “Gentlemens Hairdresser” shop would, for example, find the next day that they had overnight become the proprietors of a “Gentlemen’s Hairdresser” establishment.  For more details, go to the BBC website (https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-39459831), where you will also find a podcast devoted to the missionary work of the “Apostrophizer”.

Like it or loathe it, this punctuation mark cannot be completely ignored, as can be seen from the following examples, which are completely ambiguous without apostrophes:

# “I still have to read my sisters friends books.” Do you know how many sisters and how many friends?

# “Those things over there are my husbands.” Does the writer have one or more husbands and does she really consider her husbands to be things?

A real catastrophe!

 Yes, indeed, Geoff.

My little contribution to the debate is to tell you one of my favourite jokes.  This concerns punctuation more broadly, and confirms the importance of punctuation, especially commas, which are all-too-often absent from texts, nowadays.

………….One day, a teacher wrote a sentence on the whiteboard, and said to her students: ”Punctuate this sentence!”  It read as follows:

woman without her man is nothing

They punctuated it, and she received two distinct answers – one from the boys in class, and one from the girls.  Can you tell me what the two sentences looked like?  The boys’ answer is completely different from that of the girls. I will provide the answer in next month’s E-Bulletin, but you can send me an e-mail to check the answers, in the meantime.  A great joke to use, as it grabs the attention of the students, and leads to some healthy discussion.  Try it, once you know the correct answer!

****Geoff will be covering this topic in more detail in his next article.

For further reading on the subject, you might like to sample the delights of:  ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation’ by Lynne Truss……available through www.amazon.com  ……a small, but witty paperback, and a gripping read.


-         A Report from MARTA BUJAKOWSKA………………

Read the following colourful report from Marta, to see what took place in Paris at TESOL France’s 39th ANNUAL COLLOQUIUM, in November. It was packed with quality presenters, as usual, and demonstrated why it is one of the leading conferences in the ELT world. 


As Bugs Bunny would say:  “That’s all for now, folks!”  Have a good read of the E-Bulletin, send me your quiz answers, plus any comments about how you think IATEFL has developed in the 30 years it has existed, with an personal grand memories. I will be pleased to publish them.

Peter Whiley (Editor of the E-Bulletins and Post-Conference Journals) newsletter@iatefl.org.pl

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