[this is not a sentence]

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


SENTENCE: Please do not put any papertowel in toilet
Thank you
Em management.

WHERE: Bathroom of Em' Thai Kitchen in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

CORRECTION: Please do not put paper towels in the toilet.
Thank you,
Em' Management

CRITIQUE: This handwritten sign in the bathroom of a too-hip Thai restaurant has a slew of minor grammar, usage and style problems, and I'd like to tackle those first, before we face the real problem.

So let's get to the quirks:
  • Papertowel should obviously be paper towels.
  • The word any is unnecessary, particularly when papertowel is made into a plural rather than a collective noun.
  • The sentence requires a period.
  • The last two lines should probably be turned into a letter-style greeting, and Em management is certainly not a sentence requiring a period.
  • Em' should be consistent about the cute, graphically bold apostrophe that they stick on their name (the bathroom doors are labeled "Em'ily" and "Em'anuel.")
Good. Fine. No big deal. To the credit of the non-native speaker who penned the message, it comes across clearly despite several small mistakes.

So what's my big problem with the sign? It's that the sign is needed in the first place! Is there anyone in the Western world who does not know that paper towels clog up toilets? I mean, I recognize that crazy weird homeless dudes in the bathroom of a Midtown Starbucks do unspeakable things to the plumbing, but that's not who I usually see patronizing the fashionable ethnic eateries of Smith Street. And even if it were, I don't think the kind of crazy weird homeless dude who would decide to take a paper sponge-bath in a restaurant that offers calamari tempura is the kind of crazy homeless dude who carefully observes handwritten instructional memoranda.

I'm always a little surprised when an establishment that goes to great trouble over every detail of the decor — the sign above the bathroom sink at Em' says "Em'ployees must wash hands," with the "Em'" in the restaurant's stylish font — plasters up a hand-scrawled plaint about power-towel-bombing the toilet. The obvious explanation is that these signs go up after all the decorating is done — that they're put up after some idiot plugs up the toilet and floods the bathroom, which means that some idiot is going to every restaurant in New York and doing exactly that.

That idiot should stop it. It's disgusting. And the signs look lousy.


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