Grammar Cop, Episode One: Bad Signs

I’m going to do something a bit different today – different in that it’s not about word origins but the improper use of words, which could be a blog all on its own. We all make grammatical mistakes, even me sometimes (gasp!). There are many complex and often irregular rules in our language, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But it can be funny. Here are some recent examples:

Advertisement spotted in the window of a True Value hardware store: “Coupon Sale!” I always thought they were free. These two words should probably not be used together. “Coupon Event” works better if the idea is a sale involving coupons.

Sign in rest room at work (yes, for real, at my workplace): “Employees must wash your hands before returning to work.” Who is the “your” in this message? Are the employees supposed to wash the hands of the person reading the sign? If so, they’re going to have a long wait!

An internet seller of home security systems promises “piece of mind” if I buy their products. Are they going to give me unsolicited advice at no extra charge? I think I’d rather just have an instruction manual or some free batteries.

And, one of my favorites, a case of bad abbreviation at work. The people at our corporate headquarters who program our inventory system with item descriptions made an unfortunate truncation of a product name. When we scanned the item electronically to make a sign for it, here is how it  printed: “Russell Stover Ass. Chocolates, $3.99.”

They didn’t sell very well.

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