More Grammar Nerd Problems: Signs

Posted by Katie L. Carroll on July 3, 2008 in Language |

Another place where a lack of punctuation—I know, I know…not another writery post—can get you into trouble is on the road. And I’m not talking about those rare funny signs (check out http://www.stupidstreetsigns.com/ to see some). I’m talking signs you probably see every day. Some common ones are clear enough: STOP, YIELD, NO PARKING. Others, not so much.

For example, I frequently see a sign that says SLOW CHILDREN PLAYING. When I read this, I can’t help but think, Aww! Good for those slow children. They are playing. Not only do these signs tell us where the slow children are, but there are also ones that tell us about the mysterious SLOW SCHOOL. What qualifies a school as slow? Does that mean the children who go there are slow? That would make sense given all the slow children in the world. If that’s the case, do we really need a sign to tell us where it is? Is that so we can all go down to the slow school and point and laugh at the slow children?

I know what you’re thinking, Those signs are meant to tell you to slow down when driving in neighborhoods where there are a lot of children. Maybe that’s the intention, but that’s not what the signs are really saying. If a sign read SLOW, CHILDREN PLAYING, I would have no trouble understanding that I should reduce my speed and watch out for children at play.

Granted, there are times when the signs have the silhouette of a person in between SLOW and CHILDREN, but that doesn’t mean I should start assuming there’s punctuation all over the place (trust me, it’s usually bad to ass-u-me things!). If I did that, I could just start thinking all kinds of crazy things. Take the sign that reads SCHOOL BUS STOP AHEAD. Should I read it as SCHOOL-BUS STOP AHEAD or SCHOOL BUS, STOP AHEAD? Is the sign notifying me that there is a bus stop coming up or is it telling school buses to stop ahead?

Not to mention all the common signs that just don’t make any sense at all. With or without punctuation, the sign SCHOOL CROSSING AHEAD indicates that there is an area where a school crosses a street. Wow! I’d like to see that school even more than I’d like to see the special school. There’s also the sign that says BLIND DRIVEWAY. Too bad for that driveway. Although, I’m not sure why a driveway would want to be able to see anyway…maybe to look up girls’ skirts when they walk over it. Honestly, I could go on forever about all the nonsensical road signs, but I won’t bore you any further!

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