Word Play

Dennis relaxing

Sometimes when I’m out and about on the bus or subway or simply just walking around, I amuse myself by reading signs or even reading articles of clothing. Inevitably, I come across crimes against the English language. Committing these crimes can occasionally be forgiven if they occur within the privacy of your own home, but when they are right out there in broad daylight for everyone to see there is no excuse.

I do understand the odd typo showing up on a sign when it is first printed. Mistakes happen. For example, on the ramp from Moonstone Road to Highway 400 there is a sign that says North Parry Sound. The reason I often use this ramp is because Johnstone’s Sweet Corn and Produce Too! is just off Moonstone Road. If you go to Johnstone’s (and you should because they have proper yellow corn in addition to the egregious peaches and cream variety), you will see that Mr. Johnstone has decorated his barn with a road sign that looks kind of like the one at the Moonstone ramp, except it says North Perry Sound. Obviously, eventually, someone caught the error. What I find mystifying is this: as far as I know, signs are not painted at their installation site. The faulty sign would have had to be painted in some factory, picked up by some Ministry of Transportation person, loaded on a truck, and driven to Highway 400 and Moonstone Road. One would think that, at some point along the way, somebody would have noticed that Parry Sound had been renamed. Was there no quality assurance at the paining factory? Did someone think there was a place called Perry Sound? (I checked. There isn’t.) Anyhow, the problem was fixed. This is not true of other things I have seen in my urban travels.

Such as the sports jersey of the woman sitting across from me on the subway. It looked like a regular jersey, with logos, a team name, and such, until my eagle eyes zoomed in. It was a shirt celebrating the Soccor World Champiens. At first I thought the text was in a language other than English, but that did not explain the word “world.” Based on the logo, it was purportedly a team sponsored by Adidas (at least that was spelled correctly), but on the sleeves there were four stripes that went from the wrist to the elbow. My advice is, if you are going to buy bootleg jerseys (or counterfeit goods of any kind), run them through a mental spellcheck first.

Mr. Wong, who plies his trade near Kensington Market in Toronto, fell afoul of the Perry Sound problem. His business is Wong’s General Conteracting. His sign has apparently been up for some time, based on the state of the paint. Maybe he is trying to call attention to himself, like the bath and kitchen renovation store near the 400 in Barrie that (apparently) deliberately hung its sign upside down. But I think that if I was looking for a general contractor or to spruce up my kitchen or bathroom, I would go with somebody that seemed more likely to do the job correctly. But maybe that’s just me.

In the strip mall at Bristol Road and Yonge Street in Newmarket, there is a business called Karen’s and Tina’s Flowers. I’m guessing maybe Karen and Tina wanted to make sure each of them received equal credit for their flower shop ownership. I’m also guessing neither Karen nor Tina is overly familiar with grammar rules governing possessives. The good news is that the fine folks in suburbia probably aren’t either.

And finally, you no doubt noticed that the pandemic spawned many, many, signs. This is one I saw attached to a shop door before the restrictions were lifted. It said: “Maximum capacity 2-4 people.” I can’t even begin to figure this out. Are they making sure not to exclude conjoined twins if two sets of them wanted to shop at the same time? A parent with three children in tow? People with split personalities? I’ll never know because now the sign is gone and I’ve forgotten which door it was on. But all is not lost. No doubt I’ll continue to come across public displays of bad English and I will try not to laugh out loud if I am on public transit. Then I’ll write them in my notebook. So there.

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