An anonymous grammar vigilante has been on the loose in this town for more than 10 years

An anonymous grammar vigilante has been on the loose in this town for more than 10 years

There are some people who take grammar way too seriously. We all know a grammar Nazi out there; someone who can't see an apostrophe in the wrong place without twitching, someone who has a hernia over the distinction between "you're" and "your", someone who's always keen to remind you when you should say "fewer" and not "less". Hey, someone obsessive about grammar can be useful in the right context, but it can get pretty annoying if you're just trying to send a text without being harassed over your language skills.

Now I'll admit that bad grammar can sometimes be pretty aggravating. But personally, I would refrain from defacing someone else's property in order to correct an error, no matter how egregious it was, and so would most other people (I think). But in the English town of Bristol, there lives the Batman of grammar; a vigilante who has made it his life's mission to hunt down those street signs which have insulted his sensibilities and correct them via some proactive graffiti. Who knows why? Maybe his parents were killed by a typo when he was a kid? Today, any business establishment which advertises itself to the public without adhering to the correct rules of English can expect to be sternly reprimanded.

Credit: Getty

Wielding an implement he calls an "apostrophiser" (which is really just a simple broom handle bearing two sponges and a whole lot of hand-crafted stickers), the roaming nocturnal grammar Nazi has made it his mission to edit scores of missing and misplaced apostrophes on shop banners all across town. The anonymous pedant, who was recently interviewed by BBC news, has apparently been spell-checking signs for more than a decade and has stated that he is committed to bringing an end to the improper use of English. "I don’t think it’s damage”, he stated in the interview, "What I’m doing is sticking on a bit of sticky-back plastic. It’s a worse crime to have all these errant apostrophes on shops and garages. I just think it’s going to teach the youth of tomorrow the wrong grammar."

He's already visited a number of different high streets during the small hours and employs the use of a nifty trestle to reach some of the more awkwardly-positioned banners out there. A recent annotation of his was one made to "Cambridge Motor’s" garage. Apparently the apostrophe in "Motor’s" had annoyed him for years, and this isn’t the first time that the garage has incurred his ire. The manager of Cambridge Motor’s claims that he's already caught the vigilante in the act of altering a sign on his premises, which occurred more than two years ago. He was allegedly trying to wipe out an apostrophe on a sign reading: "Keys and letter’s through here." I can't say I blame him, frankly.

"We put up a sign and I caught him at the front attempting to scrub off permanent marker," the manager told British newspaper The Daily Telegraph. "I said to him, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘You’ve got a rogue apostrophe there’. He was a middle-aged bloke, he obviously lives locally and it’s just his pastime. I thank him for what he’s done. I don’t mind at all. It’s good to see people still caring about English grammar."

However, not everyone has been so impressed by the vigilante's efforts. Bristol resident and business-owner Jason Singh, who owns gentlemen's tailors Tux & Tails, claims that he may have to fork out big bucks to replace the sign for his enterprise after the vigilante added an apostrophe to his sign. "I did take it lightly at first, but now I’m a little angry to be honest. We think it’s paint, and this is vinyl, so if we have to replace it you’re looking at a few thousand pounds. I understand, but at the end of the day I’d have preferred him to come in and tell me. I think it could be considered rather rude. I think there might even be grounds for a police complaint, and if his name is revealed, I’ll be sending him an invoice for the damages," Singh stated.

An eye staring out through a hole in the pages of a book. Credit: Getty

The debate over whether the vigilante's alterations were morally justified got so heated that at one point, Peter Barker, the chairman of the Queen’s English Society, was forced to weigh in on the issue. In an official statement, he claimed: “I don’t disapprove of his motives; in fact, I can see why he would be frustrated." However, he later added: "Whether or not I would be going about his business late at night is another matter, however."

Yeah, I have to say that I agree with him. Grammar is just like any social convention: we enforce it in order to make communication easier, but if people get militant about enforcing it then it can be just as damaging. If you spot poor grammar on the premises of a high street store, then my advice to you is to take it up with the proprietor and leave your paintbrush at home.