SOME ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS
Discussion topic: A sign on the inside of the toilet stall door
The sign reads:
WRAP IT AND PLEASE TAKE YOUR DISPOSABLE
Perhaps I shall begin with “monthly disposable,” which I take to mean “feminine hygiene products,” specifically maxi pads and tampons. It’s such a delicate term that it feels like it’s been imported from a Jane Austen novel. (“Dear Diary, Mr. Darcy does flatter with his slight indication of interest. I should like to ruminate on the incline of his head as metaphor for his fine lineage and breeding, but I must now retire to my private chambers, where I shall unpin my tight chignon and make womanly use of my monthly disposable.”) Of course, we women often dispose of more than one item over the course of menses, so it’s not a “monthly” disposable in the strictest sense of the word.
Then, there’s the word dispenser. A Pez dispenser dispenses Pez. The bathroom already has a products dispenser, that if we are to believe the above definition of monthly disposable, dispenses maxi pads and tampons. I know that’s not where they want the readers to put their monthly disposables that they otherwise would have put in the garbage. The sign-writers don’t mean “dispenser.” They mean “receptacle,” an easy mistake (unless you understand that those words are opposites).
And as far as place it at the dispenser is concerned, I’m not doing that either. (“Place the offending material at the base of the Great Dispenser, as an offering of your womanhood.”) It’s like that George Carlin bit about the airplane: “Get on the plane? Fuck you, I’m getting IN the plane!”
Lastly, there's the obvious joke. But don't blame me for this one. It's not my fault that there's no punctuation at the end of the first sentence. Say it with me, now: "CAN I GET A PERIOD?"
Here’s a suggestion. Don’t use words unless you know what they mean. If you can’t tell the difference between dispenser and receptacle, go with something simpler. Perhaps a humble “Use the trashcan” would suffice? Or trust the users of a bathroom to know what to do with garbage? Or, if you insist on being so fancy and using MENSA-level words like these, may I suggest that you have someone look at the sign before you post it?
I know, I’m a linguistic elitist who is probably doomed to a life on the social periphery because of her criticism of the less- or differently-educated. If that’s my reputation, so be it. Put it on my tombstone, for Heaven's sake. Just spell it right.
*Not a typo; an homage to Buffy Season Six, the episode where the Trio invents an invisibility ray. God, I sound like a geek. I'm waiting for William Shatner to jump out from behind a desk and tell me to "Get a Life."