Friday, January 7, 2011

Signs of the times: Bad speller untie!

We all have hobbies. Some people scrapbook. Others spend all day on the river in pursuit of one elusive fish. Still others dress up like cowboys and shoot guns at targets, reenacting the Wild West. Then there’s me. I actually enjoy looking for spelling and grammar errors in the world around me, and apparently, I’m forming a posse.

I love how my friends have taken to sending me snapshots of signs they see that are grammatically incorrect, or so badly formed that they leave you asking, “What the heck?”

A few months ago, my friend Raellen sent me a picture from her cell phone that she took during her trip to Chicago. She passed a store that had a sandwich board sign that read “Check out our amaizing deals in the front window.” Unless these deals are ears of corn, I’m not buying.

Most recently, Dave in Utah sent me a sign from the Adelaide Airport that read “Adelaide Airport uses recycled water for toilet flushing. DO NOT DRINK.”

Whodawa? How many people were drinking from the toilet that made this sign even necessary?

You don’t have to travel far, however, to find these ridiculous, confusing signs.

A few weeks ago, my friend Paul sent me a cell phone picture of a sign in front of the Roseburg Albertson’s store that read, “Cheep Chicken.” I sincerely hope they were trying to be cute.

Drive south out of Roseburg on I-5 and you’ll see a sign that reads “Talent ½ mile.” Of course, we locals know that it means the town of Talent, Ore., is a half mile ahead, but others are wondering what exactly they’ll find a half mile up the road. The next American Idol?

Further down I-5 into California is the town of Weed with its famous sign combination. The top sign says “College” with an arrow pointing left, and the sign below says, “Weed” with an arrow pointing right. It’s a conundrum alright, leading many college students to pose for a picture underneath with a quizzical look on their faces.

Drive east of Roseburg to Crater Lake and you are greeted with a sign that reads, “Danger: Falling will cause injury or death. Stay back from cliff edges.” Fair enough … maybe I need to be reminded to stay back from the edge, but I’m pretty clear that falling into Crater Lake would not end well for me.

Then there are those signs that simply leave you wondering what this world is coming to.

I came across one website with photos from a protest and one rally-goer holding a sign that read “Make English America’s offical language. “ Nearby, a man held another sign that said “Get a brain moran.” Can you say pot … kettle … black?
And I love this one from a zoo: “Please be safe. Do not stand, sit, climb or lean on zoo fences. If you fall, animals could eat you and that might make them sick. Thank you.” Heaven forbid the animals get sick from EATING A ZOO VISITOR. Really?

There are also signs that hide the real warning below a lot of other useless text. Exhibit B: “Caution - This sign has sharp edges. Do not touch the edges of this sign. Also, the bridge is out ahead.” So here’s a thought … maybe just tell me that the bridge is out FIRST and leave me to find out (or not) how sharp the edges of the sign are on my own.

But apparently, the creators of these signs don’t think anyone can figure out anything on his own. One grocery store had a double door entry. On the left door there was a hand-written sign that read “Please use other door.” On the right door, another hand-written sign read, “This is the other door. Pull to open.” Um, yeah, thanks for that.

It’s quite depressing, actually, to think how low we’ve sunk in intellect that these signs are necessary. And just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, someone comes by and steals letters off your sign, leaving you, like one coffee shop, to post “QU!T 5T3AL!N6 OUR LETT3R$”

I’ve got one better. “$T0P MAK!N6 5TUP!D Si6N$.”

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and critiques signs in Roseburg. She can be reached at


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