An annual tradition in my business is to have a day of County Championship cricket at Lord’s with Uncail Micheál, my Irish-American business partner. Uncail Micheál is a real stickler for spelling and grammar. Indeed, he has specifically become a stickler for English spelling and grammar; he was horrified when our last book was “translated” into American spelling and grammar for joint publication on both sides of the pond.
Uncail Micheál especially berates staff if they confuse the name spellings “Lloyds” (Lloyds TSB, the bank) with “Lloyd’s” (Lloyd’s of London, the insurance thingamajig), as that is not only a confusing misspelling but also an apostrophe aberration.
The early morning before one of our cricket days out tends to be a fairly fraught affair, with both of us trying to clear any urgent overnight e-mail workload before setting off for the ground. I fired off what I thought would be my final e-mail to Uncail Micheál, but it seemed I had missed him, as seconds later I received an out of office reply:
Out of the office at Lords… “Many Continentals think life is a game; the English think cricket is a game.” George Mikes.
I love that Mikes line; one of my favourites. Mikes is pronounced Mik-esh by the way, in case you didn’t know. But Hell’s bells – Uncail Micheál has spelt Lord’s incorrectly – without the apostrophe. What will people think? Can we avert this potential apostrophe catastrophe? Thinking quickly, I rapidly e-mail Uncail Micheál back, pointing out the potential disaster, copying in his assistant and hoping for the best.
We were in luck. Uncail Micheál hadn’t yet actually left his desk, so he corrected his out of office reply and informed me that linguistic-Armageddon had been averted. Thus we both set off for Lord’s relieved and ready for our day at cricket.
I am delighted to report that the rest of the day passed without further incident.
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