We weren't surprised by the debate that greeted the new Waterstones logo announced on Wednesday. Whenever a much-loved highstreet brand undergoes a necessary change, it is always received with fervent critique.
We've talked briefly about the brand implications on our News section. But in the open forum of our blog, we wanted to address a different and unfortunate line of commentary that emerged. Specifically, that the new logo breaks a sacred rule of grammar.
Any linguist or English student will tell you that dropping the apostrophe from 'Waterstone's' does not break any rules. For in fact there are no 'official' rules for punctuation in the English language. They will then calmly explain that what we have are really just guidelines. And that even these don't really apply to company names. Look at Lloyds TSB, Boots, Foyles and Selfridges.
There's a great post here about why, despite this, people get so upset about 'mis-used' apostrophes. But the really sad part is, that in their self-inflicted sorrow, they forget to consider about how dropping the apostrophe affects the communication of the name.
Do we still know that it is the same bookshop? Does the name feel less old-fashioned and proprietary? Is it an easier word to type? Does it match the url? Does it look better?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. But in each case our answer was, Largely, yes." Which goes some way to explain the decision.
As a final thought, in the last chapter of Ulysses, James Joyce used just two full stops in 36 pages. The power and emotion of this chapter are to a great extent amplified by his contravention of a basic punctuational guideline.
Feel free to pop into a Waterstones and check this for yourself. If it turns out you agree, you could even buy the book. And discover that punctuation, like language itself, is not about right and wrong. But what it actually says.