Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Am I going soft?

With the recent focus on spelling mistakes on street signs and the like I began wondering whether the amateur pedants, such as myself, are at risk of playing into the hands of the professional organised pedants e.g. Sutton Council.

Perhaps like some of you I work for a large organisation and in order to buy anything more complicated or expensive than a stapler means that quotes have to be gathered, forms have to be filled in, approvals have to be received from everyone who may or may not possibly be interested before the item stands any chance of being ordered. It would then need to be delivered by someone who'd done manual lifting training, probably passed another Health & Safety assessment of some kind and a workstation evaluation had been carried out to ensure I wasn't going to breach some obscure regulation handed to them from a higher body.

What I came to thinking in the end was do I really want Sutton Council to have someone to go around and check x thousand road signs for spelling mistakes? How much would that cost, and how much would it cost for replacements for those misspelled ones? Firstly that person could be better employed at something else more important but secondly should they succeed in their task of finding misspelled signs that might then set off a frenzy of processes as signs are ordered, checked, rechecked, requoted, installations scheduled, environmentally sound disposals of old-signs arranged, etc, etc.

It's the same kind of chain of events that fills the NHS with managers rather than nurses and fills our newspapers with Health & Safety stories and I don't think society is going to break down and anarchists are going to move in just because a street sign remains uncorrected. All of these things are a trade-off and rather than thinking "Should this road sign be corrected?" and give a yes or no answer I'm starting to think "Should this road sign be corrected or would I rather keep weekly rubbish collections?"

I may have to hand in my Amateur Pedants Association membership, if such a thing existed, for merely even thinking this but the next time I see a misspelled street sign I think I'm going to just get over it. I may grind my teeth, laugh or groan, depending on my mood, but I won't be setting up a Facebook group, writing to the newspaper, the Council or whoever... I'll just think about all of the money I'll be helping to save but not making a fuss about it and how it could be better used heating old people's houses or providing care for neglected children.... and I'm going to start my post-pedantry rehab by not spell-checking this post!

Anyone want a used copy of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves"?

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