When you begin in subediting – the odd little craft of preparing other people’s journalism for publication – certain things, or pairs of things, are drummed into you. St James’ Park is where Newcastle United play; St James’s Park is where the band of the Grenadier Guards play. Lloyds is the bank; Lloyd’s is the insurance market. Pontin’s has an apostrophe; Butlins doesn’t.
Unfortunately for subeditors, times change. St James’ Park is now the Sports Direct Arena, although a similar deal has yet to be done for St James’s Park. Lloyds has acquired TSB and been acquired, in turn, by the government. Pontins has emerged from financial difficulties, but it has done so minus an apostrophe. And Butlins? Butlins is now a difficult case.
I went and checked on the state of its orthography this week while proofreading Toby Young’s very funny column on middle-class camping (he concludes, for those of you who have yet to subscribe, by saying ‘It would be Butlin’s next year if I had my way’). The name remains apostrophe-free in the text of the website; but the company has adopted a retro logo in which the apostrophe is proudly back in place. What to do?
Well, Billy Butlin was a real person, and in his day a very famous one: that’s him in 1947, signing autographs for admirers, above this post. And in his day, it seems clear, the apostrophe was present. As his current successors seem indecisive on this issue, I let him have his way. Did I do right, readers?