25 August 2008

A sign too far

Yesterday’s Times carried a report on a campaign against grammatical incorrectness by two young Americans, Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson. The pair have roamed across America using marker pens and Tipp-Ex to correct bad spelling and grammar on less-than-literate signs. However when they amended a historic, hand-painted noticeboard at Grand Canyon National Park they were arrested, given probation, ordered to pay a $3,035 (£1,640) repair bill, and banned from all US national parks.


The two are the brains behind the Typo Eradication Advancement League (Teal). In March, it launched an Outreach Mission to correct apostrophes and spelling faux pas. Deck and Herson travelled nearly 12,000 miles in 73 days, and identified 423 instances of signage marred by mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar. They made 231 corrections.


A star of local spelling bees as a child, Mr Deck set up Teal after attending his five-year reunion at Dartmouth College. He said: "I was speaking with some of my classmates who were becoming doctors and lawyers, and other people who could have an impact on the world and I started to wonder how I might be able to do that... fixing typos was what I came up with... I've always been aware of typos wherever I go [and] I figured that it was a national problem".


Soon Mr Deck had founded Teal, complete with a website, blog and a typo correction kit. The tour began on 5 March from Mr Deck's town of Somerville, Massachusetts, and led the pair through more than 20 states correcting public signs and "other venues where innocent eyes may be befouled by the vile stains on the delicate fabric of our language," according to the Teal website, jeffdeck.com. Asked if it had all been worthwhile, he said: "Certainly! There are a lot more people out there now carrying Sharpies [a brand of marker pen] around with them."


At the Grand Canyon National Park, the men had found a 60-year-old sign with a misplaced apostrophe and a missing comma. They duly whipped out Tipp-Ex and pen, and made the corrections. They then spotted that "immense" was spelled as "emense". They were shocked, but stayed their hands. Mr Deck later wrote: "I was reluctant to disfigure the sign any further.... Still, I shall be haunted by that perversity, "emense" in my train-whistle-blighted dreams."

15 comments:

TBRRob said...

Cool.

jams o donnell said...

Indeed but sometime it is better to keep one's poweder dry.. if only to avoid unceccesary expense and a ban from national parks!

Nunyaa said...

I know I shouldn't laugh but I always wanted to draw on sign posts, especially the animal crossing the road ones, and change or add names, yes not very mature but it was a want i never did get to fulfill .

jmb said...

I guess he should have gone the whole hog after all. Or better still left that one alone.

jams o donnell said...

Me too Nunyaa but I never did it though..

Very true jmb!

beakerkin said...

I see a new industry, "Grammarians gone wild or Grammar Porn".

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yep, it's a cool occupation. I wonder, though - do they correct same in the men's lavatories?

Steve Bates said...

The worst I ever did to a sign had nothing to do with grammar. When I was in college, I came upon a sign announcing a meeting of the extreme right-wing organization "Young Americans for Freedom." When I left the vicinity of the sign, it read, "Young Americans for Free Dope." Hey, I was about 19 at the time...

jams o donnell said...

Grammar porn? People get hard ons when they see ellipsis?

THere are not enough markers in the world for that Snoopy!

Brilliant. I love it Steve!

Maddy said...

How splendiferous!
Cheers

jams o donnell said...

Haha Maddy!

Liz said...

I sympathise with them! I received an email yesterday from someone who wrote 'Lynne and myself will access the mail'. It was as much as I could do not to send the corrected email back!

jams o donnell said...

I know what you mean Liz. I've felt like that too.

Colin Campbell said...

Fun and geeky way to have a holiday.

jams o donnell said...

If a tad more expensive than planned though!