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The Misspelled Signs of New York City
August 11, 2009 8:29 AM   Subscribe

"Even though my glory years of competitive spelling are long past, some things stay with a person. As I explore, I can't help but notice signs which contain spelling errors. I capture them for posterity with my handy digital camera and present them here for our collective education and entertainment." Thirty-two pages of misspelled signs in the New York metropolitan area -- each one lovingly annotated.
posted by milquetoast (50 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh. I like that it's a lot more gently snarky than a lot of "found humor" sites. It's kind of like getting back an essay from an English teacher who always wanted to be a comic.
posted by xingcat at 8:33 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Very funy!
posted by fuq at 8:38 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


prodigy.net & visible table borders! Old Skool represent! Awesome content, too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:39 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to laugh at the stupid people who labeled a sign as "Materiel Services" at my university. Then I found out that was a real word. But just now I've found that they renamed their department to Surplus & Material Services.

Now I'm just confused.
posted by smackfu at 8:39 AM on August 11, 2009


In which we make fun of poor people who didn't receive the education we did. By taking pictures and making lame jokes.
posted by Camofrog at 8:41 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


In which we make fun of poor people who didn't receive the education we did people who hired allegedly "professional" signmakers who ought to know how to do their job.

Because, you know, most of those signs aren't hand-lettered; they were contracted for. Maybe the person doing the hiring couldn't spell, but the folks making the signs should have caught those errors.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:45 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apparently this is a hot topic, so much that a Tampa Bay, FL new station covered local misspelled signs 9 days ago.

And last summer, word geeks Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson went across the country, removing typographical errors from public signs, for which they were banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon. Jeff wrote an apology, or something of that sort.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:49 AM on August 11, 2009


A lot of these could be over at engrishfunny. Which is actually funny.
posted by HumanComplex at 8:50 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe the person doing the hiring couldn't spell, but the folks making the signs should have caught those errors.

Unles the peple who made the sines cuoldn't spel english ether!1
posted by fuq at 8:51 AM on August 11, 2009


I'm with Guy_Inamonkeysuit. In my neighborhood, there's a strip-mall church with a professionally-made sign that includes a reference to "Jhon 3:16." OK, so maybe that's an alternate spelling? Nope--on the other side of the sign, the reference is "John 3:16." Did no one on the chain notice? Did they notice, and not care? What?
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:52 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe the person doing the hiring couldn't spell, but the folks making the signs should have caught those errors.

Or, the spelling was correct when turned in to the signmaker, someone working at the sign shop screwed it up, everyone assumed it was correct until too late, or the non-native english speakers never caught the error, etc.

There are many ways this could have gone wrong. And ALL of us have hit "post" before realizing that we spelled MetaFilter as MetaFliter at least once.
posted by hippybear at 8:53 AM on August 11, 2009


From page 2: It's "prosciutto," not "proscuitto." Remember: It's u before i except after c. I've gotta agree with xingcat.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:53 AM on August 11, 2009


A lot of these signs and awnings are pretty clearly from the one trillion sign-maker/restaurant-supply/printing/dumpling/accounting/check-cashing all-in-one shops in Chinatown, which have notoriously bad QC. Then again, my Chinese is a bit rusty, so I can't really fault them too much.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:54 AM on August 11, 2009


I need to get a picture of the sign at the Museum of Crime and Punishment in DC referring to "Fulsome Prison" (presumably not produced by a poor, uneducated person).
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:55 AM on August 11, 2009


I live near a TON of these. My wife and I have made a game out of spotting typos on billboards, awnings and signs in Queens.

Haven't gone through them all yet, but I hope he included the dry cleaner on Kissena Boulevard with the sign in the window that reads "NO PAKING."
posted by zarq at 8:55 AM on August 11, 2009


"In which we make fun of poor people who didn't receive the education we did. By taking pictures and making lame jokes."

It gets better - "In my youth I was a pretty darn good speller [...] I was eliminated on the word asylum."

I'm pretty sure this is all sour grapes over his failure to win a spelling bee in his youth because he couldn't spell a common word. Dude....... let it go.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:56 AM on August 11, 2009


When I taught in the 'hood, there was a guy who would do lettering for pretty much anything in the neighborhood. Store front churches, stores, tire lots, whatever there was. He used paint, and would paint on the actual building or backwards on the windows.

I had a list of extra credit projects the kids could do and one was to locate 10 errors in signs in the neighborhood. Oddly enough, no one took me up on it.

My favorite was the Canay Store. Where the kids could buy Atomic Fire Balls, Now or Laters and such like.

Of course on Friday at the Food Shack there would be a Fried Fish Sail (a homonym, but still).

Omar's (home of fried chicken gizzards and fake hair for extensions) would have all kinds of issues with their hand lettered grocery signs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:57 AM on August 11, 2009


Content aside, the collection reminds me of the way the web used to be -- visible table borders and gentle snark and all. And there's this oddly compulsive element to the writing that's sort of disarming at first, and then vaguely unsettling. A borderline find, perhaps, but I thought there was enough personality there to give it a whirl.

Also, I used to live across the street from a place in Harlem that advertised STEAMED CRAB via neon sign, except that that the bottom part of the B had fizzled out. So -- STEAMED CRAP.
posted by milquetoast at 8:59 AM on August 11, 2009


In which we make fun of poor people who didn't receive the education we did. By taking pictures and making lame jokes.

Last time I checked businesses making or purchasing signs weren't required to spell off the top of their heads based on what they learned in school. I believe they are even free to consult a dictionary.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:25 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am in favor of spelling reform. If only to watch this guy's head explode. I am also in favor of handing this guy any book written before about 1750. I'm amazed that dictionaries have worked so well we consider differences in spelling to be aberrant and not normal.
posted by Sova at 9:26 AM on August 11, 2009


Maybe the person doing the hiring couldn't spell, but the folks making the signs should have caught those errors.

Or, the spelling was correct when turned in to the signmaker, someone working at the sign shop screwed it up, everyone assumed it was correct until too late, or the non-native english speakers never caught the error, etc.


I had a roommate who worked at a sign company during his uni years. His coworkers and boss used to laugh, he said, at the mistakes other sign companies made, and the spelling mistakes their own customers made which they caught. My roommate, meanwhile, used to laugh at all the mistakes they didn't catch and prominently displayed around town. He said he would have corrected them himself, but smugness + equally egregious mistakes = endless entertainment.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:32 AM on August 11, 2009


I miss a business I used to drive by regularly, Illussion of Beauty. Stayed open for 10+ years.
posted by readery at 9:45 AM on August 11, 2009


There's a site crying out for a blog format.

Theirs a sight crieing out four a blogg fourmatt.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:47 AM on August 11, 2009


I like how he explains all the jokes.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:55 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's very very scary/disappointing/discouraging about a lot of those signs is that they were made by supposedly professional sign makers. I can sort of excuse the hand-made signs because...well...people who don't make their living with words get a pass on some stuff like that. But a sign pro works with words for a living. Misspellings simply aren't allowed.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:55 AM on August 11, 2009


Years ago, I worked down the street from a strip mall that housed a discount optometrist's office. This was in Denver, which has a large Spanish-speaking population, and bilingual signs are a pretty common sight. One morning, I drove past on my way to work and saw a large new sign that proudly announced:

SA HABLE ESPONAL

My first thought? "Well, no...you really don't."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:15 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's an interesting point about the sign makers. I'd also say it's fairly likely the sign details would be given over the phone, and so the spelling issue is entirely on the sign pro.
posted by smackfu at 10:21 AM on August 11, 2009


My high school hung a banner across the entrance that read "School of Excellance."

Classic.
posted by milarepa at 10:26 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are so many of these in NYC that they aren't of much interest unless there's some added level of hilarity beyond a typo. Not a typo, but a favorite from a laundromat in my neighborhood:

"Tired of killing yourself? Let our machines do the work for you!"

I was too scared to go in, even though I wanted to see the killing machines.
posted by etc. at 10:39 AM on August 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I work with ads, and I catch a lot of typos and misspellings. Depending on the severity of the misspelling and the deadline, some people are happy to just let the ad run as is rather than sending it back for correction. Big guys make mistakes too: I used to work for a large ad agency, and we got an ad for one of our clients - a big company that probably everyone in the US has heard of - that had the name of one of their major products misspelled. I was the first person to notice the error, which surprised me since it had been through so many hands before reaching me. I admit I felt pretty proud of myself that day.

My favorite found typo, however, dates back to my senior year of high school, when my mailbox was stuffed with unsolicited literature from colleges across the country. I ignored most of them. One of the very first schools to send me a brochure - and the first to send me an application - was Harvard. I hadn't gotten weary of glossy college ads just yet, and dude, it was Harvard, so of course I looked through it.

One of the pages in Harvard's brochure had a map showing how conveniently located the campus was, within driving distance from New York, Maine, and New Hamoshire.

I wish I had kept that brochure. I wonder how many observant overachievers pointed out the error to Harvard's admissions office, and whether that helped or hurt their applications.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:41 AM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


A few years ago I went to a restaurant here in Nice that occasionally had dance nights. Now, in France, "funk" is often spelled "funck", don't know why, it just is. Advertised on this restaurant's menu for the coming Saturday evening was "LIVE FUNCK", but it had a typo... it was missing the N. Ayup. Wish I'd had a camera on me.
posted by fraula at 10:42 AM on August 11, 2009


Whenever I travel back home to Buffalo, I find myself fascinated not so much by sign misspellings, but by the prevalent of Brush Script in the public realm. It's EVERYWHERE on signage, print advertising, Web sites, and so on in the Buffalo area. It's also not used in a retro ironic hipster context, either.
posted by elmwood at 11:00 AM on August 11, 2009


Also, do New Yorkers have a fetish for bubble awning signs, or what? Gawd, those things are ugly. They're disturbingly commonplace in Buffalo, too.
posted by elmwood at 11:03 AM on August 11, 2009


That guy goes straight onto the list of people I would hastily navigate away from at a party.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:06 AM on August 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Our intrepid speller may not want to know what "Chinise Food Peruvian" is, but after reading this post and watching this show, I think I've found a spot for lunch next time I'm anywhere near Sunnyside.
posted by gargoyle93 at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2009


Maybe the person doing the hiring couldn't spell, but the folks making the signs should have caught those errors.

The customer is always right, though.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 AM on August 11, 2009


o.k., it's not a misspelling, but this reminds me of the funniest sign i've ever seen...
at a dry cleaners:
"We Are Not Responsible"
posted by sexyrobot at 11:30 AM on August 11, 2009


The "alumium" sign isn't technically wrong, just obsolete.
posted by Nattie at 11:47 AM on August 11, 2009


Also not a misspelling, but one of my favorite signs ever was one I used to pass frequently in Weston, Massachusetts, right on the Waltham border. It read:

"Duck Feeding and Parking Area"

I always wanted to know how, exactly, you would go about parking a duck.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:25 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


And there used to be a sign (I think it's gone now) as one got off Route 93 in Boston to take the Callahan Tunnel. Since that exit would also take you to the North End, and the sign read:

Tunnel
No End
posted by cerebus19 at 12:27 PM on August 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I always wanted to know how, exactly, you would go about parking a duck.


Depends. Beak-in, or web-foot to curb?
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:50 PM on August 11, 2009


There's one in my laundromat I forgot to grab a picture of, advertising a "3 badroom apartment". Though who knows? It may be truth in advertising.
posted by fings at 1:14 PM on August 11, 2009


Here in Seattle, there's a used car store that has signs with both "cars" and "kars"....on the same side of the building.
posted by nomisxid at 1:40 PM on August 11, 2009


See also this sign for PowDer actuated tools.
posted by nomisxid at 1:44 PM on August 11, 2009


A local preschool recently had a professionally-made sign out front that read "Scholorships Available."
posted by workerant at 2:01 PM on August 11, 2009


That's not a typo, nomisxid.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:03 PM on August 11, 2009


well i'll be. I didn't even think to google for it, just assumed they meant "power".

my d'oh
posted by nomisxid at 3:04 PM on August 11, 2009


At a 7-11 here in Seattle, it's possible to buy frozen hearing. In my neighborhood, big changes were coming to the Mid-K Beauty Supply.
posted by Tube at 6:37 PM on August 11, 2009


I like how he explains all the jokes.

This. Disgruntled ex-spelling-almost-champ here too, and I find this nothing but annoying. Also, note to New Yorkers: Misspellings are on signs ALL OVER THE WORLD.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:03 AM on August 12, 2009


Also- "patties" are a Jamaican snack, a sort of flaky pocket with filling including spicy chicken, goat, beef, or veg. I can't believe that a New Yorker would find it so LOL-worthy to point out that "patties" is separated from the other items with a comma, meaning that he, incredibly, is so sheltered from one of the largest ethnic groups in the city (right? Or is NYC really that much less cosmopolitan than Toronto?) that he's actually never heard of patties.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:10 AM on August 12, 2009


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