DANCES WITH WORDS: Finally, good highway grammar enforced

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Nick Wolochatiuk

Our main highways are being patrolled for speeders, tailgaters and drivers who are drunk, aggressive, unlicensed or erratic. Throughout our cities there are flagrant examples of careless parking that occupies one and a half parking spaces, drivers who fail to signal their intent to turn, and reckless ones that run red lights and fail to come to a complete stop at signed intersections.

Now there’s something new: TEXT VIOLATIONS. I’m not kidding. I saw signs on the New York State Thruway that said text violations will be prosecuted. Therefore, a warning to all autobiographers, biographers, bloggers, columnists, editors, essayists, journalists, memoirists, novelists, poets, proof readers, reporters and writers of all kinds: beware of text violations.

In order to assist anyone in the above professions, and all intending to enter any of the above fields of endeavor, here are some common TEXT VIOLATIONS that could get you into trouble, big time.

Most common is the incorrect use of ‘it’s’. That is a contraction, not a possessive. Despite rampant common misuse, the possessive form of ‘it’ is ‘its’. Examples: A) If I see lightning, it’s probably going to rain. B) The dog is playing with its leash.

Next, we have the plural of the singular word ‘you’. It’s ‘you’, not ‘yous’. If a server approaches a solitary customer, she may say “Are you ready to order?” If she is addressing several diners, the question is still “Are you ready to order?” However, if the restaurant is south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it is acceptable to address the group of diners with, “Is yo’ all ready to order?”

You may have noticed that a title style-change has subtly crept into editorial usage within the last five or so years. In the days of literate and proper usage, the title of a book would have been written as “There is an Unacceptable Virus Infecting the Halls of Learning”. In the interests of dumbing down and simplification, we now see, “There is an unacceptable virus infecting the halls of learning”. I am still bucking that trend, but not having much success with my editor. He’s ‘new school’.

Then we have highway signs that avoid using the apostrophe. ‘Dumbo’s Corner’ becomes ‘Dumbos Corner’, incorrectly suggesting that Mister Dumbo never owned the intersection. The latter incorrectly indicates that there are numerous dumbos residing at the intersection.

Do you realize that there are no monks living in the community immediately east of the intersection of Highway 138 and SD&G 43? Its proper name is ‘Monckland’, not ‘Monkland’, despite what the signs and maps insist. Monkland is named in honour of Charles Stanley Monck, who became Canada’s first Governor General in 1867. Ever since, Ottawa’s Rideau Hall has been the residence of our governors general. Shame on our map makers and highway sign painters for not using Monck’s correct spelling.  

If you intend to create any text when driving on the American thruways, beware! As the signs indicate, the state troopers are out to reduce the number of text violations.        

Organizations: Mason-Dixon Line

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa

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