Or should that be apostrolypse? Anyhow, it's imminent, according to Lindsay Johns, "Waterstones: O apostrophe, where art thou?...", Daily Mail 1/13/2012:
So another one bites the dust. Yesterday the high street bookshop chain Waterstone’s announced that, as part of its re-branding, it has decided to move with the times and officially change its name to Waterstones, sans apostrophe. O tempora, o mores! […]
But it’s only an apostrophe, I hear you say. True, but here’s why we should care. You see, it starts with an apostrophe. Next, people will think that it is perfectly acceptable to omit a full stop at the end of a sentence. Then the comma and the semi colon will be unceremoniously dispatched to the grammatical dustbin.
And with them, meaning will be lost and our ability for articulation of the finer points of thought. Our language will be diminished, not augmented. In short, today the apostrophe, tomorrow the English language as we know it.
Make no mistake. These are dark times for the English language. The barbarians are at the gates. Right now, marauding grammatical Goths are encircling our linguistic Rome. We must act now to prevent disaster. We must valiantly defend the apostrophe against those who seek to attack her. We must don our grammatical armour and man the linguistic barricades, as an onslaught of grammatical philistinism will soon [be] upon us.
Indeed, the times may become as dark as they were back in the days of William Shakespeare and John Donne, those marauding grammatical Goths whose notorious omission of possessive apostrophes rendered their works almost entirely unintelligible.
Consider the tragic blunting of the finer points of thought in these lines, from the 1633 edition of Donne's Holy Sonnets:
This is my playes last scene, here heavens appoint
My pilgrimages last mile; and my race
Idly, yet quickly runne, hath this last pace,
My spans last inch, my minutes latest point,
And gluttonous death, will instantly unjoynt
My body, and my soule, and I shall sleepe a space […]
And when Shakespeare wrote, in the First Quarto edition of Henry the Fifth, that
Euery mans seruice is the kings :
But euery mans soule is his owne.
he doubtless had a relevant point in mind, but his failure to distinguish between plurals and possessives incurably obscured it. He tried vainly to fix things in the First Folio edition, writing that
Euery Subiects Dutie is the Kings, but Euery Subiects Soule is his owne.
But this fruitless lexical fiddling failed to remedy the fatal apostrophical flaw. Indeed, a fifth column has been spreading subversive rumors that even the most formal spoken English fails to distinguish possessives from plurals (and even from other sources of final sibilants!), though all true defenders of the language will dismiss this scurrilous inanity without a second thought.
Again, consider the barely intelligible dialogue of Murtherer 1 and Murtherer 2 in the fourth scene of the first act of The Life and Death of Richard the Third (as presented in the 1623 First Folio). Their discussion, insofar as we dimly perceive it through the barbarous punctuation, appears to be about killing Clarence; but as Mr. Johns has explained in the Daily Mail, what is really at stake is the assassination of the English language itself:
|1||What? are thou affraid?|
|2||Not to kill him, having a Warrant,
But to be damn'd for killing him, from the which
No Warrant can defend me.
|1||I thought thou had'st bin resolute.|
|2||So I am, to let him liue.|
|1||Ile backe to the Duke of Glouster, and tell him so.|
|2||Nay, I prythee stay a little,
I hope this passionate humor of mine, wil change,
It was wont to hold me but while one tels twenty.
|1||How do'st thou feele thy selfe now?|
|2||Some certain dregges of conscience are yet within mee.|
|1||Remember our Reward, when the deed's done.|
|2||Come, he dies : I had forgot the Reward.|
|1||Where's thy conscience now.|
|2||O, in the Duke of Glousters purse.|
|1||When hee opens his purse to give us our Reward, thy Conscience flyes out.|
|2||'Tis no matter, let it goe : There's few or none will entertaine it.|
|1||What if come to thee againe?|
|2||Ile not meddle with it, it makes a man a Coward : A man cannot steale, but it accuseth him : A man cannot Sweare, but it Checkes him : A man cannot lye with his Neighbours Wife, but it detects him. 'Tis a blushing shamefac'd spirit, that mutinies in a mans bosome : It filles a man full of Obstacles. It made me once restore a Purse of Gold that (by chance) I found : It beggars any man that keepes it : It is turn'd out of Townes and Citties for a dangerous thing, and every man that means to live well, endevours to trust to himselfe, and live without it.|
"The Duke of Glousters purse"? "His Neighbours wife"? "A mans bosome"? To the barricades!