Oh, How I Wish I Didn’t Notice!

I saw this sign at our local Home Depot while we were there this afternoon procuring garden tools, and I had to take a cell phone picture to prove to you all that I really do see this sort of thing all the time; I’m not just making shit up for your entertainment:


Don’t you just LOVE it?  GAH!

To paraphrase Haley Joel Osment; I see dumb people.



Filed under concerns, General Griping, Grammar

37 responses to “Oh, How I Wish I Didn’t Notice!

  1. Its rilly pathetic isnt it? (Ha!)

  2. Oh, God. It pains me.

    It just goes to show you what kinds of jobs are available to those without a sufficient education. I know that sounds harsh – I’m sure there are smart people working for the Home Depot – but if this is any indication, there aren’t many because don’t you think SOMEBODY would have caught that before it got posted?

    Oh, and you want to know what makes this even FUNNIER?! We were already outside….

  3. You were already outside? That’s not funny, that’s ultra-pathetic!

  4. Huh. I thought Lot already sold all his More Perennials.

  5. bowyer

    Yes, you do see dumb people, and they don’t know they’re dumb. (But they don’t really care either.)

  6. J

    Calling someone dumb because they made a spelling mistake is really unfair. Ability to spell is only weakly tied to cognitive ability. Especially English spelling, which is so chaotic.

  7. It’s not the spelling, J – it’s the damned apostrophes! They are the bane of English teachers’ existence, and even our best efforts at educating the masses leave us vulnerable to seeing signs like this one.

    What astounds me is that no one – not another employee, not a manager, not another customer – saw this and had it corrected. Sigh. It makes me sad.

  8. *stares at J in confused silence*

  9. No, J is sorta right. One shouldn’t blame a child for spelling mistakes. It is up to teachers to fix these problems before they even show up. However, once someone leaves the generic education system subscribed to by most governments, it is up to them to be their own spellcheckers, because there isn’t such a thing as a “real life spelling test.”

    So, J, you’re right, we shouldn’t call them dumb. We should call them lazy.

  10. Get yourself a sharpie, they come small and in fashion colors, you can change signs like that easily.

  11. J

    The apostrophe is part of spelling!
    And the rules for using the apostrophe are complicated. It’s worth noting that our current standards for the apostrophe are relatively recent, and there is still some variation in the apostrophe’s use. For instance, according to the Oxford Companion to the English language, all these uses of the apostrophe are standard:


with letters
dot your i’s and cross your t’s

do’s and don’ts


family names
the Jones’s

    But I’m sure that many people would disagree with these. If the “authorities” can’t agree on how to use the apostrophe, then I’m not surprised that so many people get confused.

    I think the real question is: why is it so important? It’s not causing any ambiguity or comprehension problem in this example.

  12. J

    ok, the formatting got messed up. Here are my examples:

with letters
dot your i’s and cross your t’s
do’s and don’ts
family names
the Jones’s

  13. Chili: found you a shirt http://www.onehorseshy.com/highbrow/bad_grammar_makes_me_sic?p=onehorseshy.89178214

    And J, it makes a difference much in same way that it does when you say “your” or “you’re” or “their,” “there,” or “they’re.” The English language is convoluted enough as it is that precision is tantamount to meaning. You wouldn’t screw around with certain parts of kanji, because it ruins the image and meaning instantly.

  14. J

    I don’t know about Japanese, but I know that if I read “there” instead of “they’re”, or indeed “lot’s” instead of “lots,” I am never confused about what meaning was intended.

  15. Don’t people take pride in what they put forth? Even if it is just a roadside sign, how much effort does it take to do it correctly? It is one thing to make a typo in an email or a comment; it happens all the time. But in an advertisement seen by thousands every day, I would expect to get it right.

    I am a computer science professor, but I will still take points off of written assignments for poor grammar and spelling. If you want to be a D student, and then a D employee, fine. But if you want to excel in everything, then grammar matters.

    Mrs. Chili, bad grammar on signs drives me crazy, too.

  16. WOWIE! I’ve got everyone ALL worked up, don’t I?

  17. J

    English orthography is not user friendly. When people make mistakes with other kinds of technology, like cars or computers, we know it’s the fault of the design, not the user. But when it comes to spelling, we tend to blame the user, even though we know how bad the English spelling system is.

    I am certainly not suggesting that we all ignore the rules. We’re stuck with this system, so we have to learn it as best we can. But I don’t understand all this anger and insults directed at people who haven’t mastered the complexities of this user-unfriendly system – especially when their mistakes don’t cause any confusion.

  18. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! That’s hilarious.

    I better get used to seeing it though, next year I’ve agreed to be a TA for Prof English’s Froshie Eng 101 class. Ahhhhhhhh!!! I’m gonna wanna cry. :’-(

  19. Let’s put this in terms of socio-economics.

    If I write the sentence, “Today i went to the store and bot some cloths,” then I look like I’m a D student, and will be treated as such.

    If I write, “Today, I went to the store and bought some clothes,” then I look like an A student and will be treated as such.

    People want to look intelligent. People who are intelligent tend to not exactly be forgiving with people who want to be accepted but will not be intelligent (as in, refuse to be intelligent). People who are not intelligent get aggravated by those who think them unintelligent. Being intelligent is hard, especially since we speak English.

    It comes down to this for me: I don’t want to look stupid, and I don’t like people who look stupid and don’t care. If you are going to go to all the trouble to make the damn sign, at least do it right. If you can’t do that, draw a picture and save some time. Pictographs came long before phonemes.

    Bad grammar = lazy and dumb.

  20. Organic Mama

    I so second EatsBugs and whomever else chimed in that one looks like a moron and will be treated thusly if one does not adhere to the barest minimum of standard English. Those groaning at the DVD’s and Your’s and I’ (I kid you not) all sorts of apostrophe misuse may be fewer than we should be, but there is a bottom line. That sign shows the ridiculously poor skills too many students escape school with, students who go on to represent their employers. Stupidly. Or lazily. But incorrectly!

  21. Ughy everyone!

    I blame the sign on laziness. So their? So they’re?
    So there! 🙂

  22. John

    “Pictographs came long before phonemes.”

    You mean “”Pictographs came long before graphemes.” 🙂

    I cannot accept that knowing English spelling = being intelligent. The two are not really related. Many good writers are bad spellers.

  23. Oops, graphemes it is.

    Perhaps the difference lies in what happens after the first draft.

  24. I take much more issue with ‘thusly’ than any misapostrophication.

  25. At least they spelled “perennial” correctly.

  26. J

    Yo, I never said this spelling mistake was not wrong, as you claim in Blue’s blog. I’m just saying that it is an understandable mistake and perhaps not worth getting worked up over. It is not a sign of coming linguistic chaos.

    As for the subjunctive thing, I simply like talking about it. I thought you would be interesting in this argument that English doesn’t have a real subjunctive at all.

  27. J, I didn’t mean to imply that you never said it wasn’t wrong, but I did mean to imply that you seem to be willing to overlook it because it’s not that wrong. You said:

    “I think the real question is: why is it so important? It’s not causing any ambiguity or comprehension problem in this example.”

    It’s important because it’s important. If we’re going to speak (and write and think) clearly, we need to be able to agree on a set of language standards to do that. My daughter used to spell “pretty” as “pritty.” We all understood what she meant, but it was wrong, so we corrected her. This is much the same kind of thing.

    Part of my frustration with this sort of thing is that my students tend to decide what’s important for them to know and remember and what they just don’t care about. Things like the proper use of apostrophes and there/their/they’re are things they can’t be bothered to commit to memory because they just don’t care. It’s that laziness – that contempt for the standards of the language – that bother me and, frankly, they bother me more when they’re put up on public display like the Home Depot sign was.

    Let me close by saying that I DO enjoy the arguments – I didn’t mean to give the impression that I don’t – but I’m not sure that they are worth getting so worked up over. I am starting to get a little gun-shy about posting grammar entries; I fear that we can quickly sprial from a respectful, educated exchange of ideas and opinions into spiteful pissing contests. I don’t want those kinds of exchanges happening here.

  28. J

    I certainly don’t want that happening either.

    I agree that we need a standard spelling system. However, some spelling conventions are clearly more important than others.

    I don’t agree that a set of spelling rules will help us think clearly – that’s much too Whorfian for me.

  29. Alright! J’s just invoked linguistic relativity. Now the fun begins.

    *rubbing hands together with glee*

  30. Jangari, you’re going to have to explain the fight for me from here on out. I have NO background in linguistic relativity, but I sure am looking forward to learning!

    (…and you do know, don’t you, that you’re a geek? Maybe even a bigger one than I? I dig that about you…)

  31. John

    Saying that writing affects how you think sounds to me like you are interested the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

    This hypothesis states that there is a systematic relationship between your language and your cognitive processes. It has never been demonstrated (imo) and is very controversial.

    Anyway. I’m sorry if I’ve made you wary of talking about grammar. That was not my intention. I just like talking about language, descriptive grammar, prescriptive grammar, and seeing if there’s any common ground between them. But I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun.

  32. On the contrary, John! I’ve been having a BLAST these last few days. I think this marks a record for the largest number of comments I’ve ever had on a post, which surprises the hell out of me; it really was a spur-of-the-moment, throwaway kind of entry. I just don’t want it to turn ugly. I’ve seen TOO many grammar/usage discussions turn ugly….

    I’m going to look into that language/cognition link (though I have a “thing” against Wikipedia, so I’ll investigate through other sources) because I’m betting I DO believe that. I believe there are limits and exceptions (because God/dess is cruel that way and makes it so there’s nothing much in this existence that DOESN’T have limits and exceptions), but I truly believe that language and cognition are firmly linked. I don’t really know anything until I can express it in language; I believe that naming things gives us power over them; I believe that being able to express our thoughts and ideas to others is one of the things that makes us human.

    Thanks for the lead-in to the theory – I wasn’t aware of it before now – and keep commenting!

  33. John

    Well, it’s never been demonstrated. If language and cognition were linked, we might expect that linguists who study remote languages might encounter words they just can’t translate – because the language of the speakers is so much different than the language of the linguist, so their cognition is different too. But that doesn’t happen.

    You might also be interested in Everett’s work with the Pirahã – he’s claiming that Pirahã grammar is constrained by their culture. It’s almost the opposite of Whorf, but it’s interesting.

  34. Well, many in Chomskyland – the magical land where reality takes a holiday – dismiss Everett’s work entirely. The story is long and complicated.

    But I don’t think linguistic relativity is all that strong, Whorf’s take on it was too strong, but linguists that accept relativity don’t go as far as he does anymore. The way Pinker characterises relativity is unfortunate, there’s a hell of a lot of middle ground on the issue, yet he remains adamant that it means that ‘culture is entirely determined by language’ which is clearly too strong, and false. A more sophisticated way to talk about it is ‘language and culture, while largely independent, influence each other somewhat’.

    As for language affecting cognition, well, I don’t think that’s so unreasonable. There’s a language in PNG, I think it’s Oksapmin, also called Oksap, that has grammatical evidentiality – everything you say must obligatorily include a marker that denotes how you know this. I forget how many markers there are, less than 15, I think. They go on the end of a verb in a sentence like There’s a pig in the bush and they mark things like direct perception I saw it, indirect perception I heard but did not see it, indirect evidence I saw its footprints and deduce it is there somewhere, second-hand knowledge somebody saw it and told me and so on. Apologies to RL if I completely misrepresented your research! That was all off the top of my head from a talk at a conference last year.

    The contention is this: when an Oksapmin speaker says that something is the case, they have to attend to the reason they have for knowing it to be the case, and this is due to the constraints on the grammar. Then, take it a step further: when an Oksapmin speaker speaks a different language, one without grammatical evidentiality, do they still attend to those reasons? What about when they think something, do they think about how they know something?
    If the answer is yes, then there’s a strong case to conclude that the grammatical constraints of Oksapmin, namely, evidentiality, affect the cognitive processes of the speaker.

    Mrs Chili, …and you do know, don’t you, that you’re a geek? Maybe even a bigger one than I?

    I’m slowly but surely arriving at that conclusion. Thanks for hastening the process. Oh, and I dig that you use the word dig.

  35. Oh, wow! THIS is fascinating! I’m intrigued by the example you give, Jangari, and John’s links are making my head spin (but in a rather pleasant, geeky-high sort of way).

    I’m going to have to see if there are any linguistics classes offered during the summer session of my local State U. I don’t think I can navigate all this stuff by myself!

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