I was led to ponder the humble apostrophe not out of some fastidious grammarian’s rancour, à la Truss, but for the altogether more mundane reason that – the other day, as I say – a friend of mine (from Cornwall, since you ask) belched up the frankly OUTLANDISH proposition that the sometime Newcastle United goal-grabber Stephane Guivarc’h was, and I quote verbatim here, “the greatest apostrophied footballer of all time”. As you can imagine, I almost spat out my drink with scorn (we was down the boozer – where else for such an epochal chinwag?) and, suspecting more than a little Celtic bias toward his Breton cousin, rasped “that’s absolute fucking bollocks, Chief”.
No sooner had I started to reel off the alternatives – N’Gotty, N’Zogbia, D’Allessandro, Johnny van ’t Schip – than a pretty girl from the O.C. (Los Angeles), who’d been eavesdropping, chimed up: “Like, he-llo!! Er, Samuel Eto’o!? He’s, like, the greatest apostrophied sportsman EVER. Period”.
Maybe it was the tone of her voice or perhaps the cut of her jib, but I had an incontrovertible feeling deep in my considerable gut that she was bang on. (And right about Eto’o, too.) However, the Glaswegian sat opposite me, also eavesdropping, did not concur: “Git tae foak. Whoat aboot Brian O’Driscoll? Ronnie O’Sullivan? Shaquille O’Neal, ken?” And so the conversational wildfire spread… I, meanwhile, had retreated to the bar. It was my round. (Ken who?)
This is all well and good, you’re doubtless thinking, but what in heaven’s name does it have to do with cricket? This is a cricket blog, after all. Well, no sooner had this debate died down than Piran, my Cornish pard (having backtracked somewhat to claim only that Guivarc’h was the greatest apostrophied footballer to have appeared in the World Cup final), went on the offensive and, still rattled, said (and I’m having to choke back tears of rage as I write this): “what about your stupid bloody game, eh? Cricket!! That’s got to be the most apostrophically-challenged sport there is. Who’s the Number 1, the Top of the Apostrophies, in that ponce-fest?” His eyes were like saucers.
Now, I realized almost before the words fell apologetically from my lips that Murphy Su’a is not the greatest apostrophied cricketer of all time (although, he must surely enter the reckoning for the greatest cricketing apostrophe there's been) and that, in all likelihood, there were/are better examples I could have used to silence my gobby football-loving friend. But I went blank. So, I call upon you all to ponder this most vexing of questions: if Mr Su’a is not the greatest apostrophied cricketer ever, then who is?
PS: If we can get an XI together I could enter the team in the 2011 Punctuation Twenty20 Challenge to play the Hyphens, who this year are to be captained by Rory Hamilton-Brown. Fuckin’ Hyphens – they’re right up ’emselves. Mind you, with names like that...!!!
Here is the Apostrophe XI that I picked.