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American "Sign" Language
by Michael Giardina

Basic writing skills have gone the way of Betamax and, as an English major, I get the exclusive right to complain about poor grammar and excessively long run-on sentences. I can't count the number of times that an engineer has asked me to edit his so-called essay. No, writing a sentence then rephrasing it 50 times using Microsoft Word's synonym search doesn't qualify as a cogent paper.

What is the root of this trend toward incompetence, you ask? Well, it's simple: street signs. I blame street signs for the world's inability to keep subjects and verbs in blissful agreement. Every street sign seems filled with blatant logical inconsistencies, dangling modifiers and fragments. Some are just plain stupid.

I hate the street signs in Davis that read, "No Parking Anytime Except Sunday." Isn't Sunday a time? I think it's a Davis Police Department conspiracy.

How about this street sign: "Bridge Out Open To Local Traffic." How does a bridge become out? If it's out, why is it open? More importantly, what should foreign traffic do? Poor grammar and xenophobia are always a good match.

One fine sign on the local freeway reads, "Award Winning Environmental Highway." Does this road somehow absorb pollution while I zoom by?

Does anyone else get frustrated when they're driving on Park Drive?

If we're ever in danger, a street sign will tell us of the nearest emergency phone. I guess nobody found it ironic, however, to make a street sign that says, "Emergency Phone -- 174KM Ahead." Sorry motorist, you better start running!

I once saw a sign that had a giant red exclamation point and simply stated "Sudden Gunfire." Considering the sign looked 20 years old, I wonder how sudden this gunfire really is.

An exciting sign at a golf course reads, "Any persons (except players) caught collecting golf balls will be prosecuted and have their balls removed." Jesus, I sure hope they mean the balls I'm carrying.

We all know that McDonald's is well-known for supporting the exceptionally competent people of our society. That's why I was glad to see their newest sign that reads, "Parking For Drive-Thru Service Only Thank You." I definitely plan to park in that drive-thru and see how long it takes to get my food. I won't bother commenting on the lack of punctuation.

I think most people have seen one of America's most famous signs, but I'll have to bring it up here. I can just feel the genius when I read this clever little hunk of colored metal, "Caution Water On Road During Rain." Damn, I thought it was beer. I'll stop licking the road now. Another good one is "Caution Pedestrians Slippery When Wet." Come on folks, quit the foreplay on the road.

Sometimes I just get confused when I'm driving. Like the other day I saw a big red stop sign with a little sign underneath that read, "No Stopping Anytime." Well, I hope there aren't any cops looking because I'm doomed to fail this test.

I also don't think it's very funny when the city puts "Dead End" signs out in front of graveyards. Yes, they're dead. No, I don't plan to go plowing down the graves in my sweet red Wrangler. Relax.

Sometimes signs are even philosophical! I couldn't believe a sign that read, "Caution No Warning Signs." This is a serious metaphysical problem.

What's my point? Until we convince our city governments to use proper grammar and straightforward wording, I don't see any reason why the general population should. Let's wander on like lemmings. I just hope that they don't start putting brail signs on museum exhibits that read, "Please Don't Touch."

The University should remove its writing GEs and demand we learn sign language instead. If we're lucky, we'll be able to interpret those "One Way" signs that have two arrows on them.



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