Editorial:  The Sign Says Stop

Editorial: The Sign Says Stop

Forum Photo by Eugénie Bisulco


Some of us at The Forum are sticklers about spelling. We even fancy ourselves to be wordsmiths. So that makes it extra hard to see businesses paying good money for signs and other marketing materials — menus, business cards, even print ads – with mistakes in them.

But the signs, especially, make us cringe. First of all, signs are usually meant to be large to command attention, so it’s hard to get away from the spelling error staring you right in the face. Second of all, they’re often front and center. No escape. Lastly, depending on the materials used, they are likely to be quite expensive to produce, thus are often considered a permanent or at least semi-permanent part of an establishment. Unless it’s the fault of the sign maker (and you catch it and make them redo it), you are living with that mistake for quite some time.

Take the Dairy Mell on Cross Bay Boulevard, for example. Huh? That’s supposed to be Dairy Mill, we think, as it reads in certain places on the building’s many signs. Yet the most gigantic usage, in the center of the red awning, reads “Mell.” What’s a mell? We looked it up. It’s a verb (not a noun), and it means to mix or to meddle. Which of the two spellings (or perhaps there’s a third) did the store owners intend to have printed hugely upon its storefront?

While we’re on the subject, “Cross Bay” is two words, though probably half the businesses with shops along the Boulevard spell it as one word in their promotional materials.

At one of our favorite restaurants, O Lavrador in Jamaica, we gulp every time we walk in the front door. The food is always delicious there, and the service is even better, but nonetheless, arriving gives us a bit of agita. That’s because into the elaborate wooden door at the entrance on 101st Avenue are carved the words “Dinning Room.” That means, according to dictionary.com, that the room we are entering will contain a “loud, confused noise” or a “clamor.” Surprisingly, it is rather peaceful whenever we go. Sometimes, live musicians play gentle tunes in the corner. There is no cacophony, no assailment of noise. Which means, we’re guessing, that O Lavrador meant its door maker to carve “Dining Room.” What a shame.

While it is sometimes a language barrier that causes these mistakes to happen, more often than not it is just carelessness. For even if a business owner is grammar or spelling-ignorant (hey, they’ve got a business to run – not everyone can be as word-savvy as Forum writers!), they should still hire someone to proofread their materials before they get printed. The nominal cost saves money in the long run, and it certainly saves face.

And then there are those among us who likely think they’re above using spell check or hiring proofreaders. They’ve got the cash and they’re going to print that $2000 dollar sign, come Hell or high water! They scribble it out on a napkin and give it to the recent immigrant they’ve hired to paint a mural on the side of their building. He doesn’t know any better, because English isn’t exactly his forte. And that’s when the fun starts.

How many of you have gone into a deli to buy sandwich’s or soda’s? Well, guess what, Forum readers: apostrophes don’t pluralize nouns. Our language simply doesn’t work that way. What does the sandwich own here? Who belongs to the soda? Yes, the sandwich’s price is $3.99. No, the sandwich’s are not $3.99.

We’re imploring community businesses to work to turn around this egregious problem. There is a portion of our society that has been suffering in silence for too long. We’re still going to the dinning rooms and buying the fry’s and potato chip’s, but we’re not happy about it.


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