Friday, 2 January 2009

Time Team, Roman temples and apostrophes

The new series of Time Team, the 16th, starts on Sunday with the discovery of a Roman temple complex in a field in Hertfordshire. It’s something of a triumph for the friendly family archaeological show because every previous attempt to identify the site of a Romano-British temple has yielded only muddy holes in the ground. On this occasion, the team has come up trumps with not one, not two, nor even three temples but at least four of the things, thereby going one better than the proverbial London bus, which only manages to arrive in bunches of three.

The Time Team website, of which I’ve been editor for the past ten years, is also enjoying a minor triumph, having survived the current carnage that is Channel 4 to celebrate its second decade in the virtual digging business with the start of the new series. The cuts at the channel mean that it has done so in much diminished form. We won a Bafta (for interactive entertainment) with the website in 2002, but certainly won’t be repeating the achievement any time soon. With almost everyone I’ve ever worked with at Channel 4 now having either left already or been made redundant in the run up to Xmas, we few freelances who somehow survived the cull cling to the scattered bits of wreckage of what used to be the organisation’s public service remit wondering how long it’s possible to stay afloat when even the lifeboats and lifejackets appear to have been dispensed with.

Sunday’s programme comes from one of those places that must drive the apostrophe pedants to apoplexy. The village of Friars Wash (population 113) has got by very nicely, thank you, without the aid of an apostrophe ever since the original friars (or friar) did their washing there (or not, depending on your view of how the placename originated). Rather like Barons Court and Earls Court in London, which are always good for throwing the Lynne Trusses of this world into confusion. Earls Court is almost invariably apostrophe-less, except on the tube map, where someone bunged one in between the 'l' and the 's'. Incorrectly, as it happens, because if you want to be pedantic about it, it should be Earls’ Court, as the reference is to the Earls of Oxford. In the case of Barons Court, there’s no baron – or barons – so make what you will of that one.

As for Friars Wash, don’t be surprised if Channel 4 gets it wrong in the TV listings and trailers. There’s no one left there to check such things.


a very public sociologist said...

I guess that means we can expect a slew of more reality TV and more mindless US imports?

Harper Ganesvoort said...

As for the "mindless US imports," I apologize sincerely on behalf of America. Sadly, we have to put up with the bloody things here, too, and there are still a few of us with minds. (Reminds me of the cultural situation in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next: First Among Sequels.)