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By Joseph Dempsey I can spel

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Call this a lament. A well-intentioned but poorly executed sign, strategically placed at a Wal-Mart store, is endemic of our times. And to our shared misfortune, spelling seems to have become a lost skill for a lot of people. How many times have you seen “your” used for “you’re,” a contraction for “you are?” If you’re like me, probably more than the correct version. Without belaboring the point, the list of common misspellings, if amalgamated, would in all likelihood overflow the flight deck of the USS Enterprise.

I was a poor speller in the first grade, probably squeaking by on a gnat’s whisker. Conversely, Mrs. Bonds, my dearly departed first grade teacher, may have seized the opportunity to shed herself of me and pass me on to Miss Chastain in the second grade. Regardless of the underlying reason, it was a good thing.

For some reason, still unbeknown to me, Miss Chastain decided that I would be her personal project with regard to spelling. At least I’d like to think so. She wrested me from the slimy quagmire of bad spelling. Fortunately for me, the school administrators decided to juggle teacher assignments so I got her again in the third grade.

But enough personal history. Back in the 60s, some brilliant innovator invented the marker. Smart as he (or she) was, the marker maker never perfected a spell-checker for the marker he made. Shortly thereafter, the marker started spawning generation after generation of amateur sign makers. Although somewhat diminished by PCs and printers, the practice is still alive and well today, as evidenced by the furniter sign.

Convenience store clerks, upon discovering markers, began to proliferate custom-crafted signs to cover everything from no public resrooms, no cheks and no kerdit to free kitens and nothing in the comode but paper plese. My all-time favorite was at a convenience store I formerly frequented. Posted prominently on the cold drink machine was a scrawled marker sign bearing the message, “No Mixing.” Granted, the sign was correctly spelled, but what earthly reason would a store have to prevent self-serve cold drink customers from mixing flavors? It is beyond me.

The Five Man Electrical Band had it right in the late sixties:
Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs.

After a diatribe like this, a writer should have a solution. I don’t. Enduring crummy spelling is the price paid for continuing to have birthdays in the 21st century. Nuff sed.

N O T E S:  
Nikon D200 AF Nikkor 80-200mm f2.8 D, hand held, laying my stomach providing curious entertainment for those making their egress from Wal-Mart / post processed with Photoshop CS3 Extended and Genuine Fractals print Pro.

More on signs in our Weekly Grist Blog

Click the jump wings
to see the previous
Photo of the Week.
Click the camera
for an index to every
Photo of the Week.
weekly grist

Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog.  — J. D.


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