picky

summer wild flowers (England)

It’s summer and the park is knee-deep in meadow flowers.

It’s also the end of the academic year – time for sports days and garden parties, which explains the following notice, tied to gates of the local school:

Notice on school gates: "come to our Year 6 leavers fete"I’m not actually sure what “year six” is, but suspect it corresponds to the last year at primary school – the year when I sat my 11-plus, although I was only ten. I’m not sure how many problems my ten-year-old self would have spotted on the sign, but now it bothers me on three counts:

Firstly, I suppose it’s a stylistic choice rather than an actual error, but I was taught that the numbers up to ten should be written out in full and then digits could be used: that figure “6” seems slightly lazy.

Secondly, back when I was a child, the word fête had a circumflex. Aged ten, I probably didn’t know why, but the following year I started to study French and was told that the circumflex often indicates an omitted “s”; even now I like to include the diacritic as a reminder that fête, fiesta and festival are all close relatives.

The third thing that bothers me – and, in fact, what struck me when I first saw the sign – is the lack of apostrophe. I suppose you can argue that the phrase “Year Six Leavers” works in the same way as the word “Summer” in the phrase “Summer Fair” and there’s clearly no possessive anywhere there; but I feel the fête – or fete – does, in some way, belong to the Year Six leavers.

All in all, I think I I’d have been a lot more likely to attend if the sign had invited me to the Year Six leavers’ fête.

(Actually, the clip-art flowers look like marigolds and the pictures of buckets and sponges suggest the celebrations are going to include cleaning the school ready for next year, so I’m not sure that even impeccable grammar would have enticed me.)

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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