Migrant Grammarians

CBS Sunday morning — Bill Geist, I think — did a segment a week or two ago about two young men whom he refers to as migrant grammarians. When these guys travel, they are on the look out for and ready to correct any ungrammatical signage they come across. They usually ask permission first, after getting smacked with a big fine for correcting a government sign, but most people take the corrections in stride.

I’ve actually considered making some giant commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, etc., along with various sizes of blank paper to do temporary corrections when I travel. You know, stand in front of that sign at the local bank that says, “We Copy. We Scan. We Faxes,” with a blank page over the final “es” and take a snapshot. Block out the unneeded apostrophe on “Tomato’s For Sale.” (I really get a laugh when it’s “Tomato’s for Sell.”) I’d like to have a copy of the ballot printed for a statewide election in California that left the l out of “public.” I’d also like to amend that sign by the lake north of here that always says, “Catfish tournament. Free kids.” (Though, of course, I’d have to know their intention before I could fix it. Are kids entered in the tournament for free, or are they giving away kids?)

Hey, road trip, anyone?


6 thoughts on “Migrant Grammarians

  1. Marilyn,

    The temptation is HUGE. When you are out of the country, and you realize that the signs are written by folks for whom English is not the first language, it’s both frustrating and entertaining.

    We followed a truck on the highway the other day, on it’s paneled rear was:
    Am I Drive Safely? If Not, call xxxxxxxxxx

    DH and I laughed and thought about calling to say, “he is not drive safely!”


    • LOL. At least they try!

      Years ago, I worked at an answering service, and one of our clients was a temp agency. On weekends, their employees would call in with the number of hours they’d worked that week, and we’d pass them on to the manager on Monday. One day, a woman called me in a panic. “I left my hours for the boss, but I said I’d worked seventeen hours and ninety minutes, and I redid the math, and it was really eighteen and a half hours! Please ask her if she can correct it before the paychecks go out!”

      So, when the manager called for the time records, I gave her the message and waited for her to snicker, just as I’d done. Instead, the woman said, “Oh my God, I already turned in her hours to the bookkeeper! It’s too late to change anything! She’ll be shorted this check!”

      I hung up, hoping the bookkeeper had a better idea of the value of minutes and hours than either of them did.

  2. I’m with you! My mom’s favorite (though it’s not incorrect) was “Stop Ahead”. She would tell us kids to keep watch & if we saw a head rolling by, we had to stop it. Never got old!

    • LOL, Jackie.

      Have you heard the joke about the yokels who decide to go to Dallas to see the big city? They get on the big interstate highway and drive and drive until they come to this huge sign. They look at each other, shrug, turn around and go home.

      “How was the city?” their friends asked them.

      “We don’t know. They’d put a sign out saying, ‘Dallas Left’, so we came back.”

  3. Road trip? When? Where? I’ll be there with bells on. I LOVE road trips, especially with fellow writers. You got my number, right? 😉

    • Sounds like great fun! Let’s see, we’ll pack a dictionary, a Chicago Manual of Style, plenty of markers and paper and tape . . . What else do we need?
      Maybe the number of a few good bail bondsmen? 😉

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