Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Damn You, Written Language

Before I jump into the main thrust of this post, let me get some otherwise unrelated administrative business out of the way. I'd received word that the podcast I put up last post has some end of file errors, or something, that render it unplayable in Quicktime Player and potentially in other players. Rather than run the related rigamarole of recompiling the thing and converting it to umpteen potential formats, I just went "man whatever" and threw it up on YouTube. So if you couldn't play it last time, here it is:

There! That's much easier. On to the main topic of the day, which is: the written English language, and its inherent dangers!

This afternoon I was killing time at the North Campus Building, which the Library and Information Science program shares with the Journalism program (under the combined Faculty of Information and Media Studies); this coexistence means, if nothing else, that there are almost always free copies of the London Free Press and the Globe and Mail kicking around. The London Free Press -- owned by Quebecor Sun Media -- is worth about as much as you'd expect given that knowledge, but surely Toronto's National Newspaper remains a solid and sturdy bastion of quality, right?


This is page B2 of today's paper, which gave me a bit of a chuckle after I'd finished reading it. Not because of the content, mind you; the actual article itself was pretty rubbish, but that's what happens when you try and stretch a pejorative eight-hundred-word column out of a twenty-two-word throwaway comment. But I read through it regardless, because that's what one does when killing time; at its conclusion I looked back to the top and laughed a little, because what is a Political Philospohy column even doing in the business section?

It took me another couple seconds before I did a comical doubletake at that.


That's weak, you guys. Come on.

It's a little thing, of course -- and we all make mistakes, although not all of us have the benefit of editors who will later look over the mistakes and then leave them in there anyway -- but it does subconsciously shake the credibility a little, doesn't it? Like when somebody has that one lone misspelled word on a PowerPoint presentation and then you just can't stop lookin' at it? It may be a little cruel, but for better or for worse the presentation of an idea can be compromised severely by a single mistake in the written language.

Which is why the linguist bit of my brain had itself a little conniption fit when I went to the bus stop near the Biological & Geological Sciences Building that evening and passed this critical missive on a construction fence:


Do you suppose they handed the important task of creating the necessary signage over to the first guy they saw, because he was closest to the markers? Or did they specifically pick this guy to write the sign because everyone decided by consensus that he was their best writer? Maybe he's the promotions department! You never know! All I know for certain is that, when the President of the University or some other major higher-up of this accredited post-secondary institution walks past that construction site, he or she can nod approvingly and walk confidently forward knowing that they have the work in capable hands with the absolute best people for the job.

In conclusion, the written word is pretty much dead. But if not properly monitored, it can spell complete and unmitigated disaster for one's reputation -- so check back here tomorrow, when my next Uptown column hits the press! Bizarrely enough, it ties into this discussion pretty well!


Keith Bailey said...

That song was awesome. You got talent James, this is fun to listen too and good comedy.

If you ever shoot a real music video for a gag I want in.

Great job.

James Howard said...

Glad you liked it! I think it went pretty well, all things considered.