Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Two young men with too much time on their hands have been fined for "correcting" an historic sign at the Grand Canyon.

I place the word in quotations, and yet the two, who have been traveling the length and breadth of the US fixing spelling and punctuation errors on public signage, were right. Indeed, they left their task partially undone:

The fiberboard sign has yellow lettering with a black background. Deck [one of the two] wrote that they used a marker to cover an erroneous apostrophe, put the apostrophe in its proper place with white-out and added a comma.

The misspelled word "emense" was not fixed, Deck wrote, because "I was reluctant to disfigure the sign any further. ... Still, I think I shall be haunted by that perversity, emense, in my train-whistle-blighted dreams tonight."

The two scamps were fined $3,035 to cover the costs of repairing the sign, and are on a year's probation during which time they are banned from public parks and enjoined from making any more corrections. A reporter has delighted in pointing out that a sentence now appearing on a website owned by the obsessive twosome-- "Statement on the signage of our National Parks and public lands to come" has omitted a full stop.

At least one person of libertarian leanings has responded with no small indignation. The two even had to take down previous content on their website as part of their plea arrangement, leaving only the statement noted. The comments at the last link are interesting, with opinion about evenly divided. My fave:

It's probably a good thing you guys didn't get prison time for defacing a sign at a national park. An inmate would probably tattoo your forehead and misspell "@$%^%".

It's an interesting clash and amalgam of rule-systems. We have spelling and punctuation on one hand, the most superficial level of language here fetishized by two latter-day schoolmarms, and stern state enforcement of speling and punchuation on the other. Where to turn? Coments welcom.

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