[this is not a sentence]

Correcting the world, one sentence at a time.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

[a typographical typo]

This is the pedestal of the statue of Horace Greeley in Greeley Square, that patch of ground just downtown from Macy's and west of K-town that has the pay toilets. In this case, Greeley is memorialized as the first president of the New York Typographical Society, and herein lies the irony. Can you spot the typo?

Granted, even when you click through to the larger image, it's blurry. So here's the text retyped for your editorial perusal:

THIS STATUE OF THE FIRST PRESIDENT
NEW YORK TYPOGRAPHICAL UNION NO 6
WAS PRESENTED TO THE CITY OF NEW YORK BY
HORACE GREELEY‚ÄĘPOST NO 577 G.A.R.
NEW YORK TYPOGRAPHICAL UNION NO. 6 AND
BROOKLYN TYPOGRAPHICAL UNION NO. 98

See it yet?

Mysteriously, the first to two instances of the abbreviation NO lack periods, while the second two instances take them. How weird is that? And you can't even argue that different unions had different usages, because NEW YORK TYPOGRAPHICAL UNION NO 6/NO. 6 is the same friggin' union!

Let's just hope some typographical union thugs worked that engraver over but good.

[we treat customers with gold]

SENTENCES: You are the prince and princesses. We treat customers with gold.

WHERE: At the car wash used by one of the authors of I Hate Duane Reade: Service from Hell (and nice non-capitalization of your preposition, by the way).

CORRECTION: You are the princes and princessess. We treat our customers with like gold.

GRAMMAR: This one took a little creative correction because the meaning of the original is somewhat vague. After all, the first sentence is not grammatically incorrect, in and of itself. If the author wishes to indicate that the addressee, singular or plural, is both the one and only prince and a group of princesses, then the sentence is in fact perfect. (A more realistic example: The priest and congregants entered the church.)

However, I think it's safe to say that the car wash management does not really believe that each individual who reads that sign is both the one and only prince and a bevy of princesses. It's a metaphor, obviously, and meant to indicate to all customers that they will be given the royal treatment. As such, it's necessary to create an agreement in number, either plural or singular, and I opted for the plural. Once you've got that, there's no longer a need for the definite article, so we can toss the like so much Rainex down the drain. I can see how these mistakes got made — the is a perennial doozy for non-native speakers, and both prince and princess, with their S-sound endings, raise confusing questions about whether they're singular or plural.

The second sentence is easier to deal with. Treating customers with gold means using gold to do something to the customers, and it has an unfortunate medical connotation that I would not welcome even at a car wash that considers me the heir to a throne. (We treat customers' cars with wax would be more appropriate.) Instead, I assume they mean that they treat their customers as one would treat gold: with respect for their great value. It is a fine sentiment once rendered correctly. And I threw in our before customers because it improves the flow, and anyway I doubt the car wash guys treat, say, all Duane Reade customers (to choose an establishment at random) like gold. Clearly this is about their customers, who are special — little baby kings and queens, in fact.

[maintain]

SENTENCE: Please maintain the COFFEE AREA neat and clean!

WHERE: My office kitchenette.

CORRECTION: Please maintain keep the COFFEE AREA neat and clean!

GRAMMAR: This one is purely based on usage. There is no logical reason why keep can be followed by an object with adjectives and maintain can't, but there it is.

[welcome]

Ever see a sentence that just doesn't cut the mustard? Something somewhere that is just grammatically or syntactically funky (old socks funky, not Mothership Connection funky)? Send me an email at josh@palaverist.org and I'll see if I can parse it.

In the meantime, I'll be collecting particularly egregious or confounding bits of grammatical weirdness and putting them up here for your amusement. Or for my amusement. Something like that.
Previous Posts

[is that a pillar in your cornerstone, or are you ...
[seize the day rate, karl]
[trod and true]
[new york reviewed]
[overflow]
[political soup]
[but they do wear cute uniformlies]
[articles, definitely]
[apyment]
[a typographical typo]

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