Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Feds fine editors for correcting grammar

"Two self-anointed grammar vigilantes who toured the nation removing typos from public signs have been banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon...In addition to being banned from national parks for a year, the defendants, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to vandalize government property, are banned from modifying any public signs. They also must pay $3,035 to repair the Grand Canyon sign."

... It all started harmlessly enough. TEAL members Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson “discovered a hand-rendered fiberboard sign with yellow lettering with a black background,” Deck wrote in the TEAL blog—which has been shut down as part of the plea agreement—and “used a marker to cover an erroneous apostrophe, put the apostrophe in its proper place with white-out and added a comma.”

... Additionally, AP reported, “The misspelled word ‘emense’ was not fixed, Deck wrote, because he “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,” Deck wrote.

(from The Content Wranglers)

Sure, the editors broke the rules, but they did it intelligently, for the good of all who came after them. Isn't that one of the core principles of our country, from the Boston Tea Party to Woody Guthrie?
"As I was walkin' - I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!"
The Feds should be chasing down whoever created that sign and locking them up for spreading bad grammar and spelling. Deck isn't kidding when he says his dreams will be haunted by "that perversity, emense." It's now stuck in my head like a bad spelling earworm.

Maybe I should sue the government for my suffering.

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  1. Anonymous12:47 PM

    I got a link to that story yesterday from one of my editors' discussion groups. The thing is, they "corrected" a rare, handmade sign that has historical value in and of itself, purported errors and all. I think that's more the legal issue than anything else. Plus they used white-out and marker, not exactly archival-quality materials!

    Maybe the park service should add an explanatory sign describing the historical value of the defaced sign, with commentary on its errors, so people know our gubmint knows how to spell?

    On that note, I noticed yesterday that a local auto shop was offering "brake inspetcions" and my local mega-grocery store had a "desert" section in the frozen foods. Sigh.

  2. Anonymous1:04 PM

    Hell, I can't even go to the grocery store anymore because those cashier signs that say "Ten Items or Less" drive me insane!

  3. Amama: Deserts in frozen foods? What can I say...climate change affects us all.

    MD: I know, the way most shoppers operate, those signs should say "10 items, more or less."

  4. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Maybe frozen sand-wiches? Ha!

    I just remembered that the same mega-grocery store bypassed the whole issue by having "About 12 items" lanes! Now that's creative.

  5. Anonymous2:50 PM

    Well since the King is old school and can not spell worth a plug nickel here is my 2 cents. I agree that the sign should be changed or another sign explaining why. I do not agree with the method these hoods used. If I had done that when I was younger even in college, I would not have cared what the feds did. I would have cared what my Dad did. And that is the issue too many parents do not care nor do the kids care anymore. A lack of self control and manners has invaded us. Yes I guess some rules are made to be broken but they could have done this another way.

    TCB on getting old and cranky.

  6. Man, I have had some disagreements with proofreading departments at ad agencies, but this is hard core. You guys are a serious editorial force to be reckoned with. Remind me to never dangle a participle or split and infinitive when I am at a cocktail party with you guys.

    Papa: I have to say I am a little surprised by your position. Didn't you work for the National Park Service? And don't they indoctrinate you to respect the historical signs at the parks and enforce any infractions against Government property?

    Come on guys, I know that there are a ton of grammar and spelling infractions in the world (hell, I have created some of them) but isn't there something to be said for recognizing an error, laughing about it and leaving well enough alone, especially when you are using white-out and a marker on a historical sign?

    And really, is this the worst mistake the Feds have made?

  7. I love the idea of the Park Police and the Grammar Police in a shootout. My favorite sign lately is the one at the chiropracter I ride by that offers "Gold Metal Service," which went up special for the Olympics. It took them a week to correct it.

  8. Wow, so it's grammar that gets everyone all heated up? This must be a blog that white people like.

    Alright, before we go off to crucify these two self-admitted vandals for flagrantly destroying historic artifacts, let's keep in mind that the Watchtower where this sign is located is a fake ruin of a Native American building, as authentic as real simulated indian jewelry, which was built to house a gift shop, as it does to this day.

    And yes, at a certain point, I do believe in maintaining historic accuracy. Those of you who have seen the Declaration of Independence have no doubt noted the misspellings and corrections throughout, and I don't think that those should be corrected, but ferchrissakes, this is an interpretive sign in a national park, not the cornerstone of our democracy. The only reason this sign is historic is because nobody had the good sense or education to correct it before it got old...and it's not even that old. I know a man who has shoes older than that sign, darling.

    King, you make a good point, that a second sign or other method could have better achieved the vandals' ultimate goal: teaching better grammar. FAU, I wouldn't worry about watching your words around me. Mom was forever correcting my grammar. I'll never forget her admonishment, "It's the object of the preposition." Then again, I was speaking, not carving my words for all to see.

    As for the lawlessness, I'm with my sister, curious what that shootout would look like, provided it was strictly rhetorical. Having worked for the USFS at a time when its offices were getting firebombed, I don't have great tolerance for those who would do harm to gummint employees, but I'm not much in fear of those wielding pens and white out.

  9. I think it is finally a controversy we can understand. We know which side is right and which side is wrong about spelling and apostrophes and stuff. What do you expect from a bunch of writers?