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  • Writer's pictureerikaraskin

Signs, Signs, Everywhere are Signs

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

Which is good because I collect long-lasting pleas for editorial interventions.

Like the one above which illustrates both the proper use of a slide -- and questionable parental involvement.

It's the immortalization of what should have been a fleeting thought in its creator's head that brings me an inordinate amount of pleasure. I have been known to perform intricate U-turns in order to verify what I thought I saw in my peripheral vision on side-of-the-road signage. Similarly, even when very, very late and rushing to get to a doctor's appointment, I've backtracked to reread and document the words on (unhelpful) guideposts.

(Is alphabetical order that difficult?)

My interest in the memorializing of the absurd has been going on for years. I wrote a piece for the Washington Post nearly two decades ago about the South's tendency to gussify written language; pointing to the bizarrely placed quotation marks around words like free, fresh and sale. (Is fresh something that you want air quotes around when it's adjectfying milk in the dairy aisle?)

I believe in that article I also mentioned the exclamation points ubiquitous here below the Mason-Dixon line, who along with their all-cap cousins, constantly thrust their skinny arms in the air to demand attention:

Read me!!! NOW!

One time I saw an electronic highway sign in Virginia advertising itself as being currently non-functional. (Just unplugging it would have worked, too.)

The advent of camera phones, though, has allowed me to document more of these puzzlements without the need for a whole lot of text.

(Consider the following a contribution to photo journalism.)


And this sign caused a small fire in my frontal cortex.

I'm no expert but it seems like the Braille version was edited for clarity.

This one needed a simultaneous translator.

(Open on sunny Saturday afternoons.)

It's the long-term commitment to hard copy signs that's so problematic. I propose a crowd-sourceable group effort to improve them. Think Signage Wikipedia, where you could type in an enhancement (or censor altogether) misguided campaigns.

Just no.



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