Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vigilantes on the prowl

They stalk the highways and byways of America. They do not respect age or location or position. No fence is a deterrent, no wall to high. The weapons they carry are well-used and ever-ready.

Only one thing is sacred to these people - the English language. And woe be to he who dares misuse it on a public sign.

Have you heard about these two? They call themselves the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL for short), but most people just call them the typo vigilantes. Their mission, since earlier this year, is to go around the country and correct - with or without permission - the errata found on signage everywhere. Below is a sample of them at "work". Be it the missing apostrophe, misspelled word, over-used comma, or poor grammar, they will find a way to correct it with tape, white-out, and magic marker.
sign with misspellingcorrecting the sign

I first read about these guys earlier this year when I was in Boston (the hometown of one of the two). They've been featured on NPR and the subject of several interviews. Their latest interviewer was, unfortunately for them, a judge. Apparently, people didn't take too kindly to their correction of mistakes on a hand-drawn sign at the Grand Canyon. It seems there their handiwork has landed them a fine, parole, and a one-year ban from all national parks or correction of any public signs. Alas, it seems the government frowns upon correction of its mistakes, especially in historic settings.

What do you think of these guys and their mission? Are they, as the Chicago Tribune called them, "a pair of Kerouacs armed with Sharpies and erasers and righteous indignation"? Or are they yahoos with too much time on their hands? More important, what would you do if you found them correcting your sign?

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erin said...

The English teacher in me loves that these guys are so passionate about correct grammar!

Chaotic Hammer said...

Well, I'm a bit of a grammar nut myself, but I see a couple of problems here.

For one thing, you can't break the law in your quest to rid the world of bad grammar. Trespassing, defacing property, and so forth are not ultimately going to help your cause.

And beyond that, they are clearly fighting for their cause in the wrong way. Do what Erin is doing -- become an English teacher. Educate people about the language. You know, "teach a man to fish". That gets right to the root cause of the problem.

The approach they're taking is mostly just annoying, and doesn't change the original cause of the problem. Or if they insist on the current approach, then here's something they can do instead: Log on to the Internet and start correcting all the bad grammar here. Send out e-mail messages, leave comments, crusade valiantly for the cause, and just see how much of a dent they can make. That would be pretty much just as effective as what they're currently doing.

JSue said...

I think you meant to say "their handiwork" -- right?

euphrony said...

*blush* JSue, I would like to say that was intentional. But Mrs. E would crack my noggin for lying.

Erin, just don't use the college's supplies to join in this personal quest. I don't think even a major university could afford all the Sharpies and whiteout needed.

C-Ham, good to hear from you. I believe they've said they want to be America's spellcheck. I think that's interesting, since a part of the modern problem with people learning proper spelling and grammar is spellcheck. When you're constantly corrected automatically, you don't really pay attention to what it should be; thus you never learn to spell the words you don't already know. So their "quest" doesn't teach anyone anything, it gives gives them correction without thought on their part.

Anonymous said...

I think it is great! I would not have a problem if they did correct my sign. Yes, I do think they have too much time on their hands BUT KUDDOS TO THEM!!!


Anonymous said...

I read about them awhile ago, it cracked me up. They corrected graffiti in one, it was so funny.... and another in a pet store, hilarious.

texasinafrica said...

These people are doing a great public service and deserve medals.

Although I have to say that my roommates and I got a great deal of amusement during the nine months that a Dairy Queen in the Baylor area exclaimed that it now had capucciano for sale.vjlnhprm

~Erin said...

I knew the grammar police existed!!! Somehow, I just wish they would also correct blatantly redundant comments, as evidenced by the "diner and dairy stop AND restaurant." In all seriousness, I love this concept as long as they are not pointing out MY errors.

BTW - before I post on your blog or JSue's I'm using grammar check :)

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