Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WNW: Please Trash?

Last winter, our family took a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Because I'm a nerd and can't entirely shut off my editor brain even on vacation, I couldn't help but notice a recurring grammatical problem on the trash cans in Disneyland and California Adventure.

While I took plenty of pictures of the kids, I found myself snapping pictures of trash cans and other things that made me laugh. Soon my husband was in on it too. (My sickness appears to be contagious.)

Let's take a look.

The folks designing the cans for recyclables did an okay job. Note this can, with the polite request to recycle:

We could argue that they could have added a comma between the two words, making it RECYCLE, PLEASE, but at least the request makes sense.

The receptacle standing right next to this one, however, uses the same type of phrase, including please, but they ended up with an unintentional humorous meaning:

Now obviously they don't want park goers to throw things around and otherwise waste stuff. No, what they're asking is for people to put their waste in the can. But that's not necessarily what the can says. Because waste can be both a verb (don't waste your money) and a noun (garbage = waste), the two-word phrase could mean either, "Please put your waste here," or, "Please do waste the park." 

The problem was compounded by the fact that its twin, the RECYCLE PLEASE can, used a verb first, making it all too easy to assume that the other can also has a verb in its almost-matching phrase. Look at the cans side by side, and you'll see what I mean.

Jiminy Cricket wasn't the only one with the problem. We found the very same issue in Frontier Land.

It became a chronic problem everywhere we went day . . .

and night. 

Interestingly, at least one time, Jiminy and company found a way to make the request in a full sentence (minus the period). They totally should have done this elsewhere:

Monsters, Inc. added only into the mix, but that didn't help; the resulting phrase could have meant "Do nothing but waste," as well as "Put nothing but waste here."

Here's a case where they changed up the phrase on one can. They kept the request structure, but here (hooray!), the actual request is clear: KEEP IT CLEAN.

After seeing so many problems on trash cans, I thought that maybe the problem was solely in the rubbish division. But then I spotted this door at the Muppet theater, and I shook my head, sure someone had messed up again. Didn't they know that if something or someone is alarmed, it can mean more than one thing?

But I should have trusted that the Muppets knew what they were doing. I walked closer and noted the smaller text in the the brown rectangle:

Oh, yes! Woohoo! The person who made this sign is smart, knows their grammar, and has a killer sense of humor.

After a great trip, we flew home. But as we rode the airport shuttle to the parking lot, it happened again; I laughed at another sign. This one seemed to be an attempt to sound official, but it sounded rather silly.

In English, we often create objects by adding ee to the end of a word. For example, I've heard a tutor call the person they teach a tutee. Not a real word, but we know what it means: the recipient of the tutoring.

So what in the heck is a standee?

As is often the case in public typos, this is probably a case of over thinking it. The sign-maker people could have used the exact same number of letters by simply stating: NO STANDING.

And for the fun of it, as proof that we did Disney, here's a family photo of Splash Mountain, wherein we're inwardly freaking out but purposely looking bored.


Susan Anderson said...

Love the alarmed and concerned door...


Helena said...

I also loved the alarmed and concerned door.

That is a hoot. If my husband and I had been there we would have been making jokes about it all day. "Waste Please!" (We're also the ones who like to yell, "End Construction!" and "Free Manure!" when we see certain signs on the road.)

Anonymous said...

I think that this is hilarious. I love the door alarm sign. That was the best thing ever. I never realized how many grammatical errors there are at different parks. I love the pictures.

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