Tuesday, October 19, 2004

SOME ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS

(Author’s warning to parents and religious readers:
This post is rated PG-13, for mature subject matter and foul language.)

Discussion topic: A sign on the inside of the toilet stall door

The sign reads:
NOTICE THERE IS NO DISPENSER FOR YOUR MONTHLY DISPOSABLE

WRAP IT AND PLEASE TAKE YOUR DISPOSABLE
AND PLACE IT AT THE DISPENSER IN THE NEXT ROOM.
Anonymous signs like these are my Moriarty, my arch-nemesis-se-ses*. There's no accountability, just a giant finger wagging at you for something bad you haven't done yet. Where do I begin?

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."

10 Comments:

At 2:53 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Julie said...

This post is awesome. One question, though: Did they actually want you to take your tampon out, wrap it in toilet paper, and move it into another room to throw it away? Because besides being completely unsanitary, that's just plain gross. It both amuses and frustrates me that society, in general, avoids "unpleasant" terms like "tampon" and "period" and "maxie pad," replacing them with words and terms that pretty much say nothing, like "feminine hygiene products"—proof that it's still a man's world. I mean, c'mon. Grow up, world.

 
At 3:44 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Michelle said...

Awesome post.

"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 God’s sakes—just spell it right."

That's hilarious and I'm right there on the periphery with you.

 
At 4:41 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Sarah said...

Um . . . it's supposed to be "for God's sake."

Sarah
Former English teacher

 
At 4:48 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

So what we are really saying here is that women are slobs who need to be reminded to use the trashcan.

Ok, I am ducking and running out the door before I am hit with flying objects. ;)

 
At 4:50 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Of course, I could just say "mea culpa," but instead...

I thought about that. (If you read this next sentence with Quentin Tarantino's speech style in mind, it sounds much better...) But I figured God is like, pretty divine as entities go, right, and can have like, as many sakes as He or She wants, so I think that this can safely be counted as "not a typo."

Corollary: I do believe that people say "For Chrissakes"-- whether or not it is correct I cannot say.

At any rate--I don't believe this should be counted as a typo. If you'd like to print this post, crumple it up and put it in the dispenser, feel free.

:-)

 
At 5:11 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

Feminine hygiene products are a complete misnomer and they are very difficult to spell. That would be like calling band-aids a wound hygiene product. It's not a wound hygiene product; it's just there to stop the bleeding.

Regarding your elitism - well, I know the truth: even if you didn't blog it, you would still think it! :)

 
At 7:43 PM, October 19, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a New Yorker like you, Esther, I'm wondering WHERE you actually saw this sign. If it was at the Equinox, Reebok or New York Sports Club gyms, then I think it is a great offense. But the WORSE place would be in the bathroom of one of those storefront manicure/pedicure/waxing shops.

Most likely it was written by someone who speaks English as a second language. So I don't think it all that fair to be so critical. Then you really do come across as a "linguistic elitist," and that's not all that p.c.! These are people who are trying to make a go of a small business in a big city. We both know what that's like in one way or another.

Janice
www.FocusedCoachingServices.com

 
At 12:34 AM, October 20, 2004, Blogger Madonna said...

It's not that this is still a "man's world", but that it's become an insanely politically correct world, where we can't dare use any word that may offend even one person in the slightest way.

This is why the biggest news story for a month this February was Janet Jackson's breast, and why Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost 25 points for saying "shit" on live television.

I am not politically correct. I'll never be politically correct (besides, I must live up to my name). So, yes, I find these kinds of signs quite annoying myself.

Period. Tampon. Gee, were those so hard to say?

 
At 4:45 AM, October 23, 2004, Blogger Madame D said...

Okay, somebody tell me where Anonymous Janet is so I can go hurt her.
It's a horrid sign. It needs to say "I'm sorry there are no trash cans in the individual stalls. Please dispose of all trash in the receptacle in outer area." Look, there's a big word for those of you who like the big words, and not a million fancy words for those of you who are confused by them. And honestly, if you're using that many big words without the need to look them up, you should be able to use them correctly. If you even have a question about one, either look it up or don't use it. Even those of us with the large vocabularies and wild, out of control urges to grammatically correct everything we read can do this. (I have this problem spelling "vacuum".) Don't make it harder than you have to! I am a sincere hater of the misspeller, and the person who does not know how to use the apostrophe, or semicolon properly. And if you don't like it, I could care less, because I will probably never meet you anyway. So there!

 
At 1:24 PM, October 25, 2004, Blogger zombieswan said...

This is TRULY one of my pet peeves-- awful, grammatically incorrect signs in public places. I know it brings to mind visions of tightly-coiffed English teachers with black horn-rimmed glasses and a red-pen. But. But! (she sputters, as words fail her). It is one thing to make use of creative language in daily speech-- a living language is wonderful and we *can* communicate informally without rules sometimes... BUT. As I tell people at parties when they grow uncomfortable with my status as English teacher-- I don't carry my red pen with me at parties.

BUT!

In the doctor's office I once saw this sign that said "the use of cellular phones are prohibited while in the office or exam rooms". I pointed this annoying error out to the staff and they giggled and looked at me like I needed to "get a life." Is it so wrong to demand the mastery of fifth grade grammar skills of our public sign-writers? If they cannot master these skills on their own-- if, indeed as PC Janice suggests, they are NOT native English speakers--they ought to welcome and not mock the helpful suggestions of those of us who know the correct way to say it?? And I would have to say that the person who wrote that sign was being awfully pretentious. That does not look like ESL to me. It looks much more like "I'm trying to be hoity toity and failing miserably." Say it simply or look up all the big words, please.

Listen. If you write a public sign and it's grammatically horrid, I will ask you to fix it. Because otherwise the fantasies of smacking you with my Strunk & White will grow to epic proportions and I will not be held responsible for my actions. You have been warned.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

My Urban Kvetch: SOME ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

SOME ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS

(Author’s warning to parents and religious readers:
This post is rated PG-13, for mature subject matter and foul language.)

Discussion topic: A sign on the inside of the toilet stall door

The sign reads:
NOTICE THERE IS NO DISPENSER FOR YOUR MONTHLY DISPOSABLE

WRAP IT AND PLEASE TAKE YOUR DISPOSABLE
AND PLACE IT AT THE DISPENSER IN THE NEXT ROOM.
Anonymous signs like these are my Moriarty, my arch-nemesis-se-ses*. There's no accountability, just a giant finger wagging at you for something bad you haven't done yet. Where do I begin?

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."

10 Comments:

At 2:53 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Julie said...

This post is awesome. One question, though: Did they actually want you to take your tampon out, wrap it in toilet paper, and move it into another room to throw it away? Because besides being completely unsanitary, that's just plain gross. It both amuses and frustrates me that society, in general, avoids "unpleasant" terms like "tampon" and "period" and "maxie pad," replacing them with words and terms that pretty much say nothing, like "feminine hygiene products"—proof that it's still a man's world. I mean, c'mon. Grow up, world.

 
At 3:44 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Michelle said...

Awesome post.

"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 God’s sakes—just spell it right."

That's hilarious and I'm right there on the periphery with you.

 
At 4:41 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Sarah said...

Um . . . it's supposed to be "for God's sake."

Sarah
Former English teacher

 
At 4:48 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

So what we are really saying here is that women are slobs who need to be reminded to use the trashcan.

Ok, I am ducking and running out the door before I am hit with flying objects. ;)

 
At 4:50 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger Esther Kustanowitz said...

Of course, I could just say "mea culpa," but instead...

I thought about that. (If you read this next sentence with Quentin Tarantino's speech style in mind, it sounds much better...) But I figured God is like, pretty divine as entities go, right, and can have like, as many sakes as He or She wants, so I think that this can safely be counted as "not a typo."

Corollary: I do believe that people say "For Chrissakes"-- whether or not it is correct I cannot say.

At any rate--I don't believe this should be counted as a typo. If you'd like to print this post, crumple it up and put it in the dispenser, feel free.

:-)

 
At 5:11 PM, October 19, 2004, Blogger PepGiraffe said...

Feminine hygiene products are a complete misnomer and they are very difficult to spell. That would be like calling band-aids a wound hygiene product. It's not a wound hygiene product; it's just there to stop the bleeding.

Regarding your elitism - well, I know the truth: even if you didn't blog it, you would still think it! :)

 
At 7:43 PM, October 19, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a New Yorker like you, Esther, I'm wondering WHERE you actually saw this sign. If it was at the Equinox, Reebok or New York Sports Club gyms, then I think it is a great offense. But the WORSE place would be in the bathroom of one of those storefront manicure/pedicure/waxing shops.

Most likely it was written by someone who speaks English as a second language. So I don't think it all that fair to be so critical. Then you really do come across as a "linguistic elitist," and that's not all that p.c.! These are people who are trying to make a go of a small business in a big city. We both know what that's like in one way or another.

Janice
www.FocusedCoachingServices.com

 
At 12:34 AM, October 20, 2004, Blogger Madonna said...

It's not that this is still a "man's world", but that it's become an insanely politically correct world, where we can't dare use any word that may offend even one person in the slightest way.

This is why the biggest news story for a month this February was Janet Jackson's breast, and why Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost 25 points for saying "shit" on live television.

I am not politically correct. I'll never be politically correct (besides, I must live up to my name). So, yes, I find these kinds of signs quite annoying myself.

Period. Tampon. Gee, were those so hard to say?

 
At 4:45 AM, October 23, 2004, Blogger Madame D said...

Okay, somebody tell me where Anonymous Janet is so I can go hurt her.
It's a horrid sign. It needs to say "I'm sorry there are no trash cans in the individual stalls. Please dispose of all trash in the receptacle in outer area." Look, there's a big word for those of you who like the big words, and not a million fancy words for those of you who are confused by them. And honestly, if you're using that many big words without the need to look them up, you should be able to use them correctly. If you even have a question about one, either look it up or don't use it. Even those of us with the large vocabularies and wild, out of control urges to grammatically correct everything we read can do this. (I have this problem spelling "vacuum".) Don't make it harder than you have to! I am a sincere hater of the misspeller, and the person who does not know how to use the apostrophe, or semicolon properly. And if you don't like it, I could care less, because I will probably never meet you anyway. So there!

 
At 1:24 PM, October 25, 2004, Blogger zombieswan said...

This is TRULY one of my pet peeves-- awful, grammatically incorrect signs in public places. I know it brings to mind visions of tightly-coiffed English teachers with black horn-rimmed glasses and a red-pen. But. But! (she sputters, as words fail her). It is one thing to make use of creative language in daily speech-- a living language is wonderful and we *can* communicate informally without rules sometimes... BUT. As I tell people at parties when they grow uncomfortable with my status as English teacher-- I don't carry my red pen with me at parties.

BUT!

In the doctor's office I once saw this sign that said "the use of cellular phones are prohibited while in the office or exam rooms". I pointed this annoying error out to the staff and they giggled and looked at me like I needed to "get a life." Is it so wrong to demand the mastery of fifth grade grammar skills of our public sign-writers? If they cannot master these skills on their own-- if, indeed as PC Janice suggests, they are NOT native English speakers--they ought to welcome and not mock the helpful suggestions of those of us who know the correct way to say it?? And I would have to say that the person who wrote that sign was being awfully pretentious. That does not look like ESL to me. It looks much more like "I'm trying to be hoity toity and failing miserably." Say it simply or look up all the big words, please.

Listen. If you write a public sign and it's grammatically horrid, I will ask you to fix it. Because otherwise the fantasies of smacking you with my Strunk & White will grow to epic proportions and I will not be held responsible for my actions. You have been warned.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home