Apostrophising… (some might say ranting)
I hate to be churlish, particularly as this London-based coffee company is doing so many things right, but really, if they’re going to call their company apostrophe, they need to learn how to use that most abused of punctuation marks correctly..
It’s not like they don’t care about this stuff: the name itself predicates an interest in words, and they’re also working hard at building themselves a literary niche.
Visit their Brewer Street store over the next few weeks, for instance, and, as well as aromatic coffee and toothsome artisanal breads, you’ll find Peek-a-Book: an imaginative collaboration with Penguin Books, which brings together artists, recycled books and QR codes in an ‘interactive gallery of literature’..
Of course, I see what they’re doing here: coffee shops were, after all, a part of literary London even before the days of Dr Johnson. For me, a great neighbourhood coffee shop is a place where the Americano is aromatic, the croissants ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ and nobody tuts at me when I hunker down in a comfy armchair to finish my paperback. (Then there’s that whole ‘JK Rowling writing Harry Potter while sitting in a coffee shop’ thing going on too.) And apostrophe does all that and more..
So how could this errant apostrophe have slipped past them? Perhaps the marketing director, the MD and everyone else with a GCSE in English had been stricken with a vomiting bug and left the plucky dyslexic intern to get the covers for the delivery carts designed and printed up? I checked their website, where I found their Values:
“Attention to detail and taste is in everything we do at Apostrophe, from the food displays that showcase the quality and freshness of the ingredients, to the stores, which are individually designed to make them an integral part of their neighbourhoods. We train our teams to notice those little things which make the big difference!” [My italics; their redundant and rather shouty exclamation mark.]
.This clearly suggests that, even if the whole management team had been stricken by a vomiting bug, somebody from their ‘well-trained teams’ should have noticed that errant “it’s” and stopped the apostrophe catastrophe from being carted around London. (And anyway, if the management team had returned to work ashen-faced and wobbly-legged and been presented with the carts by the proud and spotty intern, surely the shade of pink wouldn’t have been the only thing they’d have found shocking?)
Looking at Apostrophe’s logo and strapline, I noticed a more fundamental problem. The play on words and the alleged apostrophe’s recumbent position above the ‘O’ suggest that it is actually an accent (a mark on a letter or word to indicate pitch, stress, or vowel quality), rather than the punctuation mark tasked with suggesting either possession or the omission of letters or numbers.
I started to wonder if they might be suffering from ‘Innocentitis’, a widespread malaise ever since Innocent Drinks burst onto the scene in 1999 with their range of delicious drinks.
And if you compare the two brands (warm tone of voice; logo in a friendly-looking lower case typeface plus a sweet little ‘O’ with a squiggle over it), you can see why my suspicions might have been aroused. But as Apostrophe started up when Innocent was in its infancy, launching their first coffee shop in Shoreditch just two years after the Innocent boys first donned their wellies and headed off to a music festival to flog their smoothies, I think it’s fair to give them the benefit of the doubt.
So, does all this really matter? I think it does. Apostrophe is a brand with literary pretensions, and such grammatical faux pas undermine its credibility. They also make me, and anyone like me who cares about language, uneasy, and far less comfortable using Apostrophe’s services.
After a dozen years, there’s probably too much brand equity built into the logo for Apostrophe to consider changing it, but, given their literary pretensions, I really hope that their self-proclaimed attention to detail will embrace their writing in future. (I’m a Word Bird, so if they need help they can always give me a call…)