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Banned From Parks For Correcting Typos:
From Boston.com: "A man from Somerville, Mass., and his friend who went around the country this year removing typographical errors from public signs have been banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon."
Freddy Hill:
Enraged prescriptivists foiled by proscribing rangers
8.23.2008 3:25am
Anonymous #5198:
From the article (emphasis added):
In addition to being banned from national parks for a year, the two are barred from modifying any public signs and must pay $3,035 to repair the Grand Canyon sign.
I'm disgusted.
8.23.2008 3:26am
Eric Anondson (mail):
Indeed, the "vandals", uh, <i>repaired</i> the signs for free. :D
8.23.2008 3:40am
five_wheels (mail):
Is it just me, or is it horrendous journalism not to tell us what the sign said and what they changed it to?
8.23.2008 4:48am
five_wheels (mail):
Not that any variation in the answer would change my opinion that it was a stupid thing to do and the sign of someone who is apt to be far too pleased with himself for far too little reason. "Oooh, I caught an it's/its mistake! Look how smart I am!" Errors bug me too, but I get over it.
8.23.2008 4:54am
Nels Nelson (mail):
Here is better information on the thugs, who would undoubtedly vandalize the original U.S. Constitution if they could get their hands on it:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/08/22/sign.vandals.ap/index.html

There are worse crimes than misspelling, and these guys committed one of them.
8.23.2008 4:55am
one of many:
Man, at time like these I wish there was vigilant group to punish orthographical errors. A sign may contain a spelling error (although it might also be a variant spelling) or an apostrophe not according to some modern English standard but by definition a hand lettered sign cannot contain a "typo"graphical error. The Orthographical Error Advancement League would spring into action and punish TEAL for abusing the word typo.
8.23.2008 5:20am
Arkady:
Uh, the story says:


While at Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim on March 28, they were accused of using a whiteout product and a permanent marker to deface a sign that's a National Historic Landmark.


The sign is question is a hand-painted sign that is considered a piece of art. If you'd like to see it, go here and ask yourself if you'd "correct" it.
8.23.2008 8:18am
Arkady:
Better picture of the sign at the link in Nels Nelson's post. The thing reminded me of a story the Kierkegaard tells someplace about the little bumpkin cobbler from some village in the wilds of Attica who goes to Athens for the first time. He goes up to the Acropolis and looks at one of the statues of Nike adjusting her sandal. He looks at the sandal and says "Shoddy workmanship."
8.23.2008 9:03am
Sarah (mail) (www):
I guess that answers the question of "what would happen if I fixed the sign at Subway that talks about 'area's of the country.'"
8.23.2008 9:38am
Pashley (mail):
They got off light. The purpose of signs in historic landmarks is not only to inform, but to preserve history, with all of its warts, mispellings included.
8.23.2008 9:47am
Orson Buggeigh:
Self-centered little twits got off light. They ought to be sentenced to do some more useful work, like picking up litter in National Parks for a year. Vandalism is not the answer to orthographic errors. As a member of the historic preservation community, I find the vandalism of historic sites to be particularly offensive.
8.23.2008 11:06am
Waldensian (mail):

There are worse crimes than misspelling

Your so right about that.
8.23.2008 11:49am
Curt Fischer:
From the article:

In addition to being banned from national parks for a year, the two are barred from modifying any public signs...


Huh? Is it just me or does this imply that us regular peeps can go around modifying public signs willy nilly, as long as we haven't been ordered not to by a judge?
8.23.2008 12:00pm
JK:

Huh? Is it just me or does this imply that us regular peeps can go around modifying public signs willy nilly, as long as we haven't been ordered not to by a judge?

While it does sound odd, it's presumably for enforcement reasons: now if they vandalize a sign they are in violation of their conditions of release in addition to any relevant laws. This means that they can be thrown in jail (or otherwise sanctioned) without full criminal process.
8.23.2008 12:17pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I appear to have the same taste in reading as some other user of my public library. S/He marks up books to correct typos and statements s/he believes to be incorrect.

While this person is pretty good at proofreading, accuracy as to 'factual' corrections is pretty iffy. The latest assertion I've found is 'Camembert cheese hasn't been made for ages!' Who knew?

In any event, this is a very annoying person. And I'm probably too thin-skinned about it. But I've had over two dozen library books so amended this year.

I wonder if I can get him/her arrested for defacing public property?
8.23.2008 12:34pm
one of many:
M. Burgess, most likely the marking up of a public library books is a minor crime, although jurisdictions vary. Also what type of "public library" may affect the severity of the offense. In all but a limited number of cases bringing defaced books (even with corrections) to the attention of the staff can result in the minimum of a suspension of library privileges for the offender.

sidenotes
Wouldn't "emended" be a better choice than "amended"?

I suspect your copy editor is confused about US laws (and often stricter state laws) which criminalize young raw milk (unpasteurized) cheeses such as Camembert. The has always been a significant amount of bootleg unpasteurized cheese available in the US despite the law, either smuggled or illegally produced. These days there has been a loosening of enforcement on the unpasteurized cheese laws to the point where some cheese sellers market them openly although it is still illegal. Most commercially available cheese sold as Camembert in the US remains not a true Camembert but instead an aged raw milk cheese similar to Camembert.
8.23.2008 1:05pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
While I agree that these guys went too far in correcting a sign that is a historic marker, $3,035 to fix it seems more than a little ridiculous. All they did was move an apostrophe and add a comma. That should take an artist about five minutes to fix. Even if they have to hire an artist and pay for a full hour of her time, the cost shouldn't exceed $100.
8.23.2008 2:20pm
The Cabbage (mail):
I, for one, welcome our new roving grammar school English instructor overlords.
8.23.2008 3:25pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
The Cabbage,

Now there's a real novelty: confusion between The Volokh Conspiracy and Slashdot! :)
8.23.2008 4:54pm
pete (mail) (www):

I wonder if I can get him/her arrested for defacing public property?


Hopefully you could, but speaking as a librarian, unless you actually witness the person defacing the book you will not be able to prosecute assuming you can get the police to arrest the person. So many people handle public library books that figuring out who actually damaged them is usually impossible unless you see it or they admit to it.
8.23.2008 6:30pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
If we're going to be sticklers about correctness, how about we wait until the guards at the art museum aren't looking and try to fix the (lack of) perspective in Grandma Moses' paintings?
8.23.2008 10:01pm
whit:
pete, that's not really true. It sounds like the guy has left a pretty good sample of his handwriting in his multiple corrections. A simple handwriting exemplar would help establish probable cause that it was HIM that did the defacing.

Here's a simple way to establish PC to justify the exemplar. By looking at who checked out the books with the defacement, if the same guy was the only one who took out all the books with the defacement that would fall under either INCREDIBLE coincidence (ha!) or probable cause to believe he did it.

Iow, there may be many people who took out those books but chances are only the defacer would have taken out ALL (of the ones with defacement). Then, the handwriting examplar would "seal the deal" by adding another piece of excellent evidence. That's how investigations are done. Piece by piece.

It's not rocket science.
8.23.2008 10:03pm
Orson Buggeigh:
Bill Poser says:


While I agree that these guys went too far in correcting a sign that is a historic marker, $3,035 to fix it seems more than a little ridiculous. All they did was move an apostrophe and add a comma. That should take an artist about five minutes to fix. Even if they have to hire an artist and pay for a full hour of her time, the cost shouldn't exceed $100.



The problem is, this isn't just a sign mass produced by a government sign painter in the park service sign shop. It isn't produced with a technology that could be easily replaced for a c-note like the mass produced signs from the Park Service shop. The sign damaged by these little morons is a hand-lettered item on fiber board, produced by the woman who was the architect who designed the building it describes. While her grammar and spelling might not measure up to her qualities as an architect, damaging the sign to correct her errors is an act of vandalism, since the Park Service chose to leave it as is, and not ask her to correct it.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who should know better think this sort of individualism is acceptable, or repairable for a nominal fee. The woman in question is a noted early woman architect. Granted, she isn't someone of the national historical stature of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, but let's say someone vandalized his hand-painted sign that had been on display in one of the churches where he was pastor. Do you think a hundred bucks and an hour of "Joe the painter" from the community college would be adequate, or would you want to bring in a real art conservator?

The cost for conservation may surprise you. Yes, a stenciled, painted sign with a few words on metal can probably be replicated for a hundred dollars. But to repair damage to a hand-painted sign, consisting of a lengthy description of the building's features, and some graphics on a rather fragile surface like fiberboard, is not something that can be done by just anybody from the local sign shop. No, this isn't the Mona Lisa, but art conservators are not cheap. My guess is the consultation was the hundred dollar part of the job, and the three grand for an expert to try and repair the damage so it won't be too visible in the future.
8.23.2008 10:22pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Orson Buggeigh,

I am aware of the difficulties of repairing defaced works of art, but they simply don't apply in this case. As I pointed out, the changes made by the foolish correctors consisted of moving an apostrophe and adding a comma. To repair this, one needs: (a) paint matching the original color of the text; (b) paint matching the color of the background; One simply paints over the added apostrophe and the added comma with the background color paint and restores the original apostrophe with the text color paint. This does not require the services of a conservator. And of course the sign is modern: there is no issue of matching obscure mediaeval pigments.
8.23.2008 10:28pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
There's also the question of how far they had to go to find the expert capable of repairing the damage. I don't think there are a lot of historical document repairman living on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Bringing the expert to the sign or the sign (properly packed and heavily insured) to the expert must have been a fair chunk of the cost.
8.23.2008 10:28pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Orson Buggeigh,

And by the way, though I agree that the sign should not have been "corrected", it is a rather minor work of art, which the Park Service clearly does not intend to preserve indefinitely. If they did, they would not have left it unattended out of doors in its original position where it is readily exposed not only to vandalism but to the elements.
8.23.2008 10:30pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Dr. Weevil,

Its true that there might be transportation costs, but let's remember, this is a simple job and it isn't a historical document like the Declaration of Independence. We're not dealing with paper hundreds of years old and ink or paint of radically different composition. It is not unlikely someone capable of handling this can be found in Albuquerque or Tucson. I doubt there's a need to ship the sign to Rome.
8.23.2008 10:34pm
whit:

And by the way, though I agree that the sign should not have been "corrected", it is a rather minor work of art, which the Park Service clearly does not intend to preserve indefinitely. If they did, they would not have left it unattended out of doors in its original position where it is readily exposed not only to vandalism but to the elements.




YEA. that's why they store mt rushmore indoors! (rolls eyes)
8.23.2008 10:55pm
Crunchy Frog:
I prefer to look at the $3000 as a penalty for douchebaggery, richly deserved.
8.24.2008 1:43am
SATA_Interface:
I prefer to look at the basic illiteracy of our nation's park service and the sign-making vendors who refuse to proofread. Wait, there was no penalty for illiteracy? Get me one of those jobs, pleeeze.
8.24.2008 2:24am
SATA_Interface:
I must support the douchebaggerosity of my fine fellow Somervillans.
8.24.2008 2:25am
Which one? (mail):

John Burgess:

I appear to have the same taste in reading as some other user of my public library. S/He marks up books to correct typos and statements s/he believes to be incorrect.

While this person is pretty good at proofreading, accuracy as to 'factual' corrections is pretty iffy. The latest assertion I've found is 'Camembert cheese hasn't been made for ages!' Who knew?

In any event, this is a very annoying person. And I'm probably too thin-skinned about it. But I've had over two dozen library books so amended this year.

I wonder if I can get him/her arrested for defacing public property?


Although it would make you a suspect at first as well, it has to be a small list of people that have checked out all of 24 books, the odds would be astronomical. The library would investigate this, they have time for projects like this, and I would have to think defacement means something to a librarian. Now a conviction in court is another matter entirely, but I would see an end to that library card coming soon.

This whole thing reminds me of "Stuff White People Like" on grammar rules:
8.24.2008 11:02am
Which one? (mail):


http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/05/12/99-grammar/
8.24.2008 11:03am
pluribus:
Bill Poser:

While I agree that these guys went too far in correcting a sign that is a historic marker, $3,035 to fix it seems more than a little ridiculous. All they did was move an apostrophe and add a comma. That should take an artist about five minutes to fix. Even if they have to hire an artist and pay for a full hour of her time, the cost shouldn't exceed $100.

I agree. Crime should be cheap. If committing crime becomes expensive, people will be discouraged from it, and we wouldn't want to do that. I also agree that the culprit's offense here was in going too far. It wasn't wrong in itself. Isn't there a First Amendment right to deface public signs? Of course, the right isn't unlimited, and should stop at historic signs in national parks. Otherwise, it's the American thing to do.
8.24.2008 12:51pm
Golda:
"Huh? Is it just me or does this imply that us regular peeps can go around modifying public signs willy nilly, as long as we haven't been ordered not to by a judge?"

I think it's a condition of probation that they not change signs, whether its illegal or not.

Its likely the damages also included administrative costs, as well as, repair.
8.24.2008 3:21pm
Bill McGonigle (mail) (www):
It's likely the sign would have been protected with a UV-stabilized polyurethane or similar coating to protect hte original work from degradation. In that case, Wite-Out and Sharpie can simply be removed with a paper towel and isopropyl alcohol. No artist needed. Supplies on hand and 5 minutes of labor. They probably also have graffiti remover on hand and may have even used it on this sign before.
8.24.2008 5:36pm
Randy R. (mail):
"The sign damaged by these little morons...""

But of course, no admonishments for the little morons who have written up public statements without a second thought to the grammar.

I'll give the sign writer a pass, since she was not writing up something official for the National Parks Dept. As for the rest of the 'vandalism', I would say, produce a grammatically correct sign, with proper spelling, and then you don't have to worry about these little morons.
8.25.2008 1:54am
Chimaxx (mail):
What does the fact of its age or the identity of the person who wrote it have to do with whether or not it was correct?

Do we want to leave lots of bothersome and erroneous things around as is just because they are old?

And it's not as if the things they changed were correct when she wrote them and made incorrect by the changing of grammar rules over time, or matters of stylistic variation.

Isn't correcting errors and annoyances a service?

No one bitches about the fact that we never see Emily Dickinson's poems as she wrote them, with her varying-length dashes as the only punctuation. We only see them with "corrected" punctuation. Why is that good and this bad?

And given that these changes have been made, why would you want to restore it. Isn;t this now part of the history of this sign? Restoring it to its old error is like, in the midst of restoring a church, discovering that a lot of the problems stem from an inadequate foundation, and deciding to give it a new but identically inadequate foundation for the sake of historical accuracy.
8.25.2008 10:23pm