Speed 12 January 2012

And not because it’s better.

But because in Britain – or at least in England, which of course gave rise to it – we have abandoned the very thing that binds us as a people, that stiffens the backbone of our culture, and that marks us out as the country which did most to kick-start the formation of the modern world.

Not that we should be proud of all of that, but we should at least be proud of the thing I’m talking about here: our language. English. British English. Or, as it really is (cue patriotic drumroll), English English.

But that pride has gone now, torn to pieces and abandoned to pick its path slowly along a miserable gutter to the darkest of sewers. Because we have succumbed to the utterly morose. We’re beyond caring. We’d rather be idle, dim, cheap – we want the easy way out. We want convenience, and to get it we’re prepared to tolerate the banal. We’re prepared to gaze lazily upon centuries of history and scoff slovenly.

And the reason I say this, the reason that the tipping point of the true English language’s fall from grace is now behind us, is that Waterstone’s has dropped its apostrophe. Which is incorrect. One of the country’s foremost providers of books (yes, books, full of the supposed English language, source of intellect, where we expect our language to be beyond reproach) thinks apostrophes have no point any more because too few people understand them these days and digital media doesn’t register them as well as it does words without them.

So ‘people’ need to learn their own language and digital media needs to grow a brain.

I don’t care if Mr Waterstone hasn’t worked there for years. An apostrophe is an apostrophe. English is English. Wrong is wrong.

Anyone who has read Bill Bryson’s excellent Mother Tongue (probably available at Waterstone’s, but beware the crowds of punctuation-hating moronic shoppers if you elect to visit and buy a copy) may have considered that American English is ‘purer’ than British English these days anyway.

Yes American English may be a little laughable to us Brits, but our own language has been subject to whims and fashion for generations, so we can hadly criticise. It’s just different.

And now, given the irreperable rot that has set in with the original, I think the only thing I can do to preserve my sanity is to cross the pond, linguistically speaking. American English may be a bit sloppy in places, but at least punctuation and grammar hold firm, even if the sentence structure is somewhat ‘out to lunch’. From now on, I may as well just use (shudder, horror, the turning of souls in their graves) American English.

So, Waterstone’s, let this sorry episode be a lesson to you. And if the apostrophe has truly gone, and it’s not set to later return to raise suspicions of a planned PR exercise, at least update your web site rather than commiting brand inconsistency too.

No good can come of this.

Although for Daily Telegraph readers, as least it has provided an opportunity for another picture of Cheryl Cole

And if this is all a PR stunt, should I undertake my own, visiting branches across the country to put the poor little blighters back?