10 September 2010

10 signs of disaster

There are few things that would drive me to violence, but the following 10 signage errors would bring me close to it, says Susan Erasmus.

There are few things that would drive me to violence, but the following 10 signage errors would bring me close to it, says Susan Erasmus.

We have serious problems in this country, what with the strikes, the divide between rich and poor, Malema vs. Zuma, unemployment, racism. I could go on for a while, but I'll spare you. You know the list. After all, you live here. Maybe you need a bit of a diversion.

Right.  Against the background of the catastrophes named above, spelling and language errors seem minor. Until you see them for the fourteenth time. In public places and on signs that cost a fortune. Have sign writers never heard of spell check?

Here are the 10 favourite spelling errors South Africans absolutely adore to make.

Accomodation. Can I have everyone's attention please? This word has to be written with a double 'm'. It's 'accommodation'. If you have this sign outside your B+B, you're obviously trying to attract customers. How far are you going to get if you cannot even spell what the service is that you're offering?

Onboard. No. It's' on board'. It's two words, just like 'in spring'. You wouldn't write that as one word, would you? OK, forget I asked.

On suite. Mmm. No. It should be 'en suite'. It's French basically meaning 'in sequence', and it refers to having a bathroom leading off the bedroom. 'Suit' is what you wear, and 'sweet' is what causes tooth decay. This is especially for the estate agents. Don't get me onto estate agents as such. But boy, their spelling often sucks. Watch the following example.

Sort after. 'Sort' is what you do when you go through your personal papers, or tidy something up. Guys, you're looking for the past participle of 'seek'. It's 'sought'. I think I should receive one percent of your commission every time I see this in print. Which is about 10 times every weekend.

First come, first serve. Think about what this would mean: the first person to get there would have to serve everyone else. That's not what you want to do. You want to be SERVED. It's 'first come, first served." That 'D' is an important one, as can be seen in the following sign: "All illegally parked cars will be fine". No, they're not fine. It's not OK to park there. You mean 'fined'. As in huge heaps of money. One letter can make a huge difference.

Door's and window's. Supposed to mean many doors and many windows. The apostrophe (') indicates either possession or that there's a letter missing. The vast majority of plurals are formed just using the letter  's'. Written as it is in bold above, it means 'of the door' and 'of the 'window'. Right, I can feel my blood pressure rising already. But have I finished? Oh no. There is more to come. My torture never ends.

Its spring. It should be 'It's spring'. That is short for 'It is spring'. The other one shows belonging, such as in 'its tail'. If you fail to see the difference, especially if you're a sign writer, or if you ever come near a keyboard, I promise to send your name and telephone number to seven different cellphone marketing companies.

Alot. What is an 'alot'? There is no such thing, even though rather a lot of people make this mistake.

Your instead of 'you're'. Sentences such as this one make me think of having my kitchen knives sharpened: "Your so good at this." No, clearly you're not.

Conveniance. Well, if you can't spell 'convenience', you're definitely not offering it to the customer. So remember spell check before you pay hundreds of rands for that sign.

Here's an invitation for everyone:

Our boat's are very sort after. Come onboard at your conveniance and come and check out the fabulous accomodation. Its really great, but remember alot of people are really interested, so we work on a first come first serve basis. Your welcome.

See, in five minutes I have managed to get language errors to irritate you. Now watch out how many hundreds of times you spot these in the next week. You'll be so irritated you won't even notice the taxi drivers, or Julius Malema on the seven o'clock news. One day you'll thank me.

 (Susan Erasmus, Health24, September 2010)


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