Apostrophes aside, a bit of incorrect signage makes the mall go 'round

Janet's World

November 04, 2007|By Janet Gilbert

I like to read retail signage. More accurately, I like to find mistakes in retail signage. This makes me one of those annoying people who hold up the line at a fast-food place because they feel compelled to let the cashier know that there really should be no apostrophe in the headline: "Try our spicy Southwestern nugget's."

Does it seem a bit cruel, my joy in pointing out the grammatical blunders of others? Yes, but once I held a job writing fast-food tray liners, and I like to think I brought to that lowly position the same respect and reverence for language that I share with you weekly in this column.

Did you buy that? Well, bully for you. Read on.

In a large, well-known chain of stores, I was perplexed to see this recurring sign -- which means it was mass-produced, resulting in a rampant, national apostrophe catastrophe. The sign was used to promote items in the store's different departments for Father's Day:

"What Dad's really want."

If I were going to get all up-on-my-pedestal-ish, I might say something snooty such as: "If you don't see the problem with this, stop reading now."

But this is Janet's World, where, incidentally, the apostrophe belongs precisely where it is, and where explanations are free. So what is wrong with the above statement appearing throughout the store?

1) Dad does not want a weed-whacker. At this point, he'd rather have a lawn service.

2) Neither does he want a set of socket wrenches.

3) If you give him another sweater, he's just going to regift it to your older brother.

There. I'm glad we cleared up this misunderstanding so that we can move on to the hilarious signage I saw at the mall candy store.

This candy store always seems to appear directly in my path at the end of my shopping trips, when my shoes have become too tight, and my fingers on one hand are painfully striped from the shopping bag cords, and I feel I owe it to myself -- yes, indeed I deserve -- a little treat for jamming a trip to the mall into my crammed week.

Drawing me in with its intoxicating dark chocolate perfume, its fusion of butter and cream with pecan overtones and a light marshmallow finish, is the store with a name as ridiculous spelled backward for privacy as it is spelled forward. Ssufnekcow.

You can try to halt your normal breathing at Ssufnekcow to steel your willpower, but after just a few moments you will undoubtedly break down and decide to buy a piece of candy for the car ride home. And a half-pound of butter creams for later.

I was trying to decide which piece of chocolate to select, when I saw the neatly hand-lettered sign: "Candy is not returnable."

There was no grammar error in this sign, yet it was astoundingly funny to me. Who would return candy, for heaven's sake?

"You'd be surprised," the saleswoman said.

I could see returning a shirt with the tags still on it because someone else could safely wear that shirt. But who would buy a returned truffle, I asked?

"I know," she said. I was preaching to the chocolatier choir.

So, friends, this is what we have going on in America: There is a plethora of grammatically incorrect signage, written and approved by a small group of people who see nothing wrong with signing their holiday cards, "Love, The Klingerman's." Then, when we finally come across some correctly worded signage, its message is absurdly addressed to this same small audience, the kind of folks who apparently think it's just fine to buy candy and then return it.

Clearly, it is time to form the Janet's World Signage Police and work together to stamp out ignorance not only in form but content.


Contact Janet at janet@janetgilbertonline.com.

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