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Friday, August 22, 2008

Typo Fixers on Probation

posted by on August 22 at 15:30 PM

jimas-fixed-20080522-212246.jpgjimas-diner-20080522-212205.jpgI wrote about the Typo Eradication Advancement League, and its pursuit to fix bad grammar and punctuation on public signage, when it came through the Northwest last spring.

Now, the members of TEAL are in the doghouse for defacing a more than 60-year-old, hand-painted sign at Grand Canyon National Park.

From the Associated Press:

An affidavit by National Park Service agent Christopher A. Smith said investigators learned of the vandalism from an Internet site operated by [Jeff] Deck on behalf of the Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL.

Authorities said a diary written by Deck reported that while visiting the watchtower, he and [Benjamin] Herson “discovered a hand-rendered sign inside that, I regret to report, contained a few errors.”

The fiberboard sign has yellow lettering with a black background. Deck 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.”

Deck, of Somerville, Mass., and Herson, of Virginia Beach, Va., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to vandalize government property.

They were sentenced to a year’s probation, during which they cannot enter any national park or modify any public signs. They were also ordered to pay $3,035 to repair the watchtower sign.

RSS icon Comments


Their a bunch of dick's!

Posted by Skip | August 22, 2008 3:38 PM

I knew I hated these smug little bookish bastards. This seals it for me.

Signage isn't literature or letters or technical writing - there's a special art to communicating effectively on a sign, and you can't always apply Chicago or AP standards to best do that.

Now as a designer, I shall reserve the right to rearrange parts of their faces I don't find visually pleasing.

Posted by Dougsf | August 22, 2008 3:43 PM


"Emense" shouldn't communicate effectively to anyone except the illiterate.

What I'm more confused about is how you justify $3,035 for what was merely a moved apostrophe. How's that work out???

Posted by cunei4m | August 22, 2008 3:50 PM

I hate homogenizers (no offense, gillian)

Posted by paulus | August 22, 2008 3:52 PM


Signage may not be literature but that's no excuse for obvious, simple grammatical errors. It's not a matter of aesthetics.

Posted by AMB | August 22, 2008 3:52 PM

Damn! Everyone hates copy editors!

Posted by J.R. | August 22, 2008 3:55 PM

#3 - they didn't fix THAT typo. As for the fine, that may be just the charge for defacing federal property. Even these little over-achievers should know better than to deface a 60 year old, hand-painted sign.

Oddly, the TEAL website only contains two lines of text. One is supposedly a headline and not worth nitpicking. The other is a complete sentence without a closing period, and they didn't capitalize 2 of 4 letters of a proper noun. And really, "so what?" Exactly - if that were a physical sign I wouldn't bother defacing it, because I'm not an asshole (to signs).

Posted by Dougsf | August 22, 2008 4:05 PM

Busybodies fucking with stuff that doesn't belong to them. And their own organization's name is hardly a beacon of sense. "Typo Eradication Advancement League" is further from good usage than "Peach's $1" ever could be.

Posted by Fnarf | August 22, 2008 4:08 PM

Here's the text from -
Typo Eradication Advancement League

Statement on the signage of our National Parks and public lands to come

> The other is a complete sentence without a
> closing period, and they didn't capitalize > 2 of 4 letters of a proper noun.

1. Where are these uncapitalized "2 of 4 letters of a proper noun"?

2. You think this is "a complete sentence"? "Statement on the signage of our National Parks and public lands to come"
I noticed that claim in the AP article too.

(as far as your sentiment about "so what?", I vaguely agree, though...)

Posted by jw | August 22, 2008 4:16 PM

These guys are assholes without even the redeeming quality of knowing what the fuck they are doing.

Posted by Greg | August 22, 2008 4:19 PM

#9 - National Parks and Public Lands. If there's a capital N and P, there should be a capital P and L, because you're talking about a specific management agency. It's possible you could mean that in a broad sense, but it'd be an unlikely combination of words. Best part is, I don't really care if I'm wrong.

It's the same logic TEAL might use to deface THELMAS' CAFE sign - it's more likely there is a proprietor named Thelma and the apostrophe should be moved in, but it's possible it's run by the Thelmas family. It's not really any of their business.

Beside my occupation being graphic design, which means the typo-catching section of my brain is pretty dull, I also spend a lot of time on the road. (4,500+ miles this summer so far) I love getting out to the country where I can stop seeing giant corporate roadside monstrosities and start enjoying local food shacks and town grocery stores smaller than my apartment - that's were these typos tend to live, and those might also be examples of some of the least corrupted and cynical artistic endeavors you ever get to see anymore.

But fuck it, why not just make interstate highway signs sentence case, with commas if necessary. That would be fun to navigate.

Posted by Dougsf | August 22, 2008 4:42 PM

These guys are illiterate, soulless anuses. Dougsf is exactly right on all counts.

Posted by Fnarf | August 22, 2008 5:03 PM

It's funny that they're paying to fix the sign... I wonder if the finished version will have correct spelling and punctuation?

Posted by Uncle Vinny | August 22, 2008 5:09 PM

If the sign is 60+ years old and hand painted, it has ceased being a mere sign imparting information and ought to be considered well on its way to becoming a legitimate piece of folk art, and should not be fucked with.

If the assholes just HAD to "fix" it, they ought to have done so by some easily reversible manner, such as with tape. But using permanent markers and Wite Out? That's just vandalism.

Posted by Hoyt Clagwell | August 22, 2008 6:29 PM

Signspotting and Signspotting 2 are two of the funniest books I've ever seen. They would be full of blank pages if not for the misspellings, punctuation errors, awkward translations and other signage grammar faux-pases (faux pas's, faux pas', faux pa's) exactly do you make the term "faux pas" into a plural?

Posted by RainMan | August 22, 2008 7:44 PM

@15, you don't do it with an apostrophe.

Posted by paulus | August 22, 2008 7:53 PM

"If it's not yours, don't touch it." A lesson learned in kindergarten.

Posted by misspris | August 22, 2008 8:16 PM

@16: Remind me to explain the concept of a joke to you some time.

Posted by RainMan | August 22, 2008 9:00 PM

I agree they should not have messed with a 60-year-old handwritten sign, but you're all assuming they knew that's what it was. If they did not, then they were just correcting a sign the way they always do, not knowing it had historical value for itself. And as for $3,000 to repair it: that could just be the standard fine, or it could be the cost for restoring the sign to its original, poorly punctuated self. (My heart goes out to them, though. There's a building I pass by everday on my way to work with their address spelled out on the awning, "Twenty One Hundred". Problem is, that means their address is 20100. Their actual address is 2100 so they need a hyphen, "Twenty-One Hundred". It kills me every time I see it. I would love to find out how much it would cost to buy a hyphen in their special lettering and affix it to their awning and then offer to pay for it for 'em.)

Posted by RKM | August 26, 2008 7:21 AM

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