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Monday, July 19, 2010

We don't exist?

I just noticed a tweet from @avalonmel saying that the WestJet website does not recognize St. John's as a location. Instead, you have to type "St. Johns". I've experienced this kind of little annoyance before in various forms, so I thought I'd look into it a little bit.

Fact: our capital city's name is spelled with a period and an apostrophe. Perhaps it's not exactly a common occurrence in place names in the rest of the world, but here in NL, we have all manner of St.- and 's- based names, including my homebase and pain-in-the-arse-when-it-comes-to-online-forms, Portugal Cove-St. Philip's. will accept nothing but the full thing. Canada Post is serious about place names.

Perhaps the issue lies in the fact that many websites likely use American standards, where possessive apostrophes in geographic names have been effectively outlawed, according to the US Board on Geographic Names. Unless you're from Martha's Vineyard (deemed acceptable, along with only 4 other geographical locations in the U.S., according to Wikipedia).

Canada, on the other hand, according to the Principals and Procedures on Geographical Naming (.pdf) seems to approve of the apostrophe, "only when well established and in current usage". I think 500-plus years is pretty well-established. They are clear on the "St.", though, so any name containing St. or a variation (Ste., St-, etc) "are official forms and should not be modified in any way".

I wonder if there is any provision for enforcement of these rules? I would think that if someone went through the trouble of writing and translating THE RULES on this, Canadian companies, at the very least, would be expected to adhere to them. I guess in lieu of the Royal Canadian Internet Police, we will have to settle with complaining to WestJet et al. ourselves.

What do you think? Is this even important? Should we drop all the pesky punctuation altogether?

If you have any examples of this, or thoughts on whether or not it matters a lick, please feel free comment or shoot a tweet my way @ishopandtell


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