Sunday, September 30, 2007

I certainly don't want them on cell phones

Tim writes: "I caught this sign driving up highway 1 through Malibu. Maybe drunk
drivers are just supposed to shout?"

maybe the writer is a snob

Thanks to frequent contributor Nix who found this one in Australia. I'm not going to spend much time speculating on what is meant by "coffee" because my inner twelve-year-old is thinking of all kinds of inappropriate things. I'm going to go with the writer not believing the beverage served there is up to their standards for coffee without quotation marks.


I guess the quotation marks in this one, sent by Waldo, are to denote that "Homeade" isn't a real word. My guess it's a sauce/juice made from homes - like lemonade or limeade. Mmmm nothing like an icecold glass of homeade...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

be "quiet"

the blogger at My K Blog sent me this picture with no backstory. My guess is that by "quiet" they mean not terribly loud.

unnecessary editing

Alan Zoppa points me to this letter to the editor, which he himself wrote, but which the editor added quotation marks to. Evidently they do not believe that co-religionists is a word. I plan to go to church with my co-religionists this sunday.

that "kitchen" sounds great

writes Jason: "I have this image in my head of a decentralized network of schmucks who have never cooked a meal before making all their food. "

Friday, September 28, 2007

sounds like a great "game"

Charlie noticed this fantastic sign at a fair in Spokane, WA. I agree with him that the best part "win"; I'm pretty sure I don't want to know what the "prize" is. There is also one more opening quote than there are closing quotes. I love a dangling quotation mark.

not really for them

Evidently this window isn't sure if people using loans are really buyers. Or something. Thanks Wendy.

fake polite in spanish

rough translation of this photo from Guatemala: please "don't" enter this bathroom

My favorite thing about this is this story supplied by photographer Kent, who is also a friend of mine: "This woman thought I was taking a picture of her, and since I didn't know Spanish, she didn't understand that I was actually more interested in the sign on the bathroom door behind her."

we call it "special"

Noah sent me this one. Perhaps it is called a "lunch special" because it's available all day? It does sound yummy. I also like the way the quotation marks match the lettering style of the heading, which is really enough to emphasize it on its own.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Stephen was sold some souvenir fudge in this bag. He is not sure he wants to eat it now. (To sticklers: yes this fits into the slogan grey area. whatever.)

Unrelatedly, I extended my FAQ last night, with a special moment for linguistics nerds. Not that having an FAQ has decreased the number of people who ask me about the things in the FAQ.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

not restful? not actual rooms?

Mick saw this one at a gas station in rural virginia. I love it that other people take these kind of vacation pictures now.

all "Work" and no "Play"

"Tools" and "Toys"
Originally uploaded by mirthmobile
This place mat advertisement for Industrial Supply is either quoting their own tag-lines - so good they needed two of them - or it is citing the title of something.
"Tools Of The Trade"
"Toys for Big Boys"
The inconsistency of the capitalization aside, are we to believe that Industrial Supply provides both "Tools" for work and "Toys" for play? I suppose that's possible.

a fake deal

It kind of looks like somebody tried to blot out the right quote on this one, you can barely see it. Maybe it has quotes around "10 lb for $10" because you don't actually have to buy 10 lb to get the deal. Thanks for sending it, Jon.

let me put on some makeup

James saw this one on a MUNI bus in San Francisco. Maybe it's only a "warning" because everyone knows most people like to be in pictures.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

single quote

Katie took this in Athens OH. Those lonely close quotes really leave me with some questions.

easy to misinterpret

My sister Meredith and her boyfriend Calvin spotted this one at a fair in Michigan. I think the combination of "please" and the tiny "do not" give one plausible deniability for ringing the bell anyway.

not actually made out of fire

Colin asks, " When is a door not a door? When it's a 'fire door' apparently." He took this picture at a college campus.

*note* people had trouble seeing the image. I found a computer on which it did not work for me and threw it up again. Sorry if you now see it twice. Or still not at all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

you kids and your "music"

To the sign-maker's credit, I also have little appreciation for the music that others choose to share loudly from their cars. Karla (who goes by Karlita in LJ) submitted this great example of questionable sarcasm. Incidentally, where I come from we say "turn it down" instead of "put"; is this a regionalism? (this photo taken in Arizona)

I'm a "great" driver

This one comes from long-time friend of the blog, Marc; he posted about it here. I've seen how those "good drivers" drive. I wouldn't hire them.

the tutor formerly known as andrew

Norann apologizes for the image quality on this cameraphone pic, but it's worth straining for. Evidently "Andrew" is so famous (see paragraph 2) that he uses a pseudonym for tutoring.

attention grammar snobs

Andy wanted me to start a blog for Grammar and Syntax errors, and I said he could do it himself if he wanted one to exist. So he did. Here it is. If you want to share grammar errors that you have read with other like-minded pedants, this is your new place.

first "closed" now "locked"

Quotation mark abusers seem very interested in locking and closing things lately. Submitter Greg cleverly suggests, "I guess the sign actually meant to say 'you can shut the door all you want but the manager still has the key.'"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

new because it just recently became wet

Michelle saw this one at the gym. Am I the only one imagining a sportcoat, shirt, tie and pants in somebody's full bathtub?

you know, "close it"

"I hope a 'closed' gate is as effective at keeping my offspring safe as a closed one," says Chris, who spotted this sign at his daughter's daycare.

Prepare to celebrate tomorrow

I've been reminded by a few people, including the founder himself, that National Punctuation Day is tomorrow, September 24. So, add that to your nerd calenders, that it comes right after Talk Like a Pirate day.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

ok, this is fascinating

I'm reprinting this story from Elsi's blog, which Elsi alerted me to via email.

In English and Danish (among others) quotation marks indicate doubt. A “free” vacation will cost you; “fresh” fish isn’t. Some other languages, however, such as German, use quotation marks for emphasis—which is what too many English-writers think it means. During WWII, the Nazis in Copenhagen forced the newspaper to print their propaganda. Members of the underground placed it all within quotation marks. Danes read it and thought, “Aha! I certainly won’t believe that!” Germans read it and thought, “Wonderful! They’re emphasizing our story!”

This is a case of punctuation confusion serving a rhetorical purpose. I love it!

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments lately that I can’t respond to individually. Here are some general responses:

How do I submit?

Send your image as an email attachment to bethanykeeley @   gmail.  com (without the spaces). Make the subject something about quotation marks. It will take me a while to get to it (like, months. sorry!), but I will still appreciate you and reply when I finally get to posting yours. Unless I can't think of anything funny to say and don't post yours.

This is your pet peeve. You should also blog about mine, which is _____.

Actually, I don’t consider quotation marks a peeve. I just think it’s funny to misinterpret them, almost always. This is not the case with most other grammatical errors, although the occasional dangling modifier is pretty amusing. Somebody else can blog about your thing if they want; I really think the genius here is the specificity. Check out my sidebar though; some of those people might already blog about your thing. Especially you legion of apostrophe pedants.

How can you make fun of other people when you made the following grammatical error ____?

I am not a grammar expert. Sure, I am living in a glass house intentionally obfuscating other people’s usage, and therefore usually correct errors that other people point out. The point of this site, though, is not to demonstrate my grammatical superiority, it’s to have a little fun with language.
This blog is a waste of time. I can’t believe someone wrote an article about it.
I can't believe people are interested in it either, I'm just doing this for fun. Related question: is a person who takes the time to criticize bloggers they don't know in a position to tell me how my time should be used?

Those quotation marks are totally acceptable, stop being so mean.

Remember what I said about intentional obfuscation? I’m just trying to have fun. If you don’t think this is fun, it’s probably not the blog for you.

What do you think about this grammatical issue: ____?

I'll do my best to respond to your specific question, but maybe you should ask grammar girl or look it up in a style manual of your choice. My expertise is in rhetorical theory and criticism, which is only somewhat related to grammar.

Why are quotation marks such a big deal to you anyway?

They really aren't. I'm actually not a grammar fanatic at all, although clear writing is important to me. I started this blog for fun never expecting anybody to notice it except my family and friends. Other things that are more important to me than punctuation include, but are not limited to: my family, my job, my faith, politics, some television shows.

For Linguistics Nerds Only: Don't you know about language change? Why be such a prescriptivist? Alternate: Thanks for fighting for pure English against the uneducated masses!

My real intellectual position is more of a descriptivist. I understand that language is constructed socially and therefore naturally evolves and changes and is not subject to absolutes. I conceive this blog as a kind of language play that demonstrates why we have norms in the first place, to promote clarity. I'm trying to have fun with language, not protect it or enforce a "right" way to write or speak.

What is the rule for end punctuation and quotation marks? Aren't you doing it wrong?

It is standard in the US to put all end punctuation (periods, commas, question marks, exclamation points) inside quotation marks. My Canadian high school English teacher taught me that when the quotation marks are ironic or setting off a word or phrase because you are talking about the word itself, then the punctuation goes outside. I like this rule better, and it seems like a worthwhile distinction to make on this blog. So even though I live in the US, I do it this way: when I am quoting someone else, punctuation inside quotation marks. All other uses, outside. I figure it's fine as long as I'm consistent, but you probably shouldn't follow my example for formal writing.

May I use some of your photos on my blog?

Sure, as long as you give credit and a link for where you found them, and limit yourself to no more than 3 or 4. I want your readers to visit my site to see more!

Is it ok if I link to your blog?

It's more than ok! I really appreciate it when people like my blog enough to recommend it to their friends and readers.

How about a link exchange?

Sorry, I don't do those.

This blog is "great!" You "are" so "funny!"

Good one.

How come you posted this picture and not the similar one I sent you?

It's possible that the one I posted actually came in before yours (like I said, I'm months behind) or when I looked at yours I couldn't think of anything funny to say about it, or thought it was too hard to see. I get a lot of emails, so I tend to click through until I find something I like and rarely go back. Sometimes a picture isn't very funny but the email that goes with it saves it. Sorry it's not more fair.

While I'm at it, here are some questions no one has asked, but might some day:

What are your guidelines for comments?
I'm so glad you asked. Here are some guidelines:
1) spam will be deleted as soon as I notice it. Trolling will be deleted at my discretion.
2) I know I have to put up with people correcting my spelling/grammar, but I appreciate it if you do it nicely. I also get a little testy when people do this anonymously, because it does not allow us to see any of their perfect or imperfect prose.
3) please keep the tone light and friendly, if we aren't having fun, why bother with the "blog" at all? (It goes without saying that violent or sexually explicit language is rarely called for, and I am pleased to see that thus far I haven't had occasion to say so.)

Do you have a policy about responding to email?
I do now. I used to try to respond to everyone, but it's been getting a little overwhelming. So I'm cutting back. I'll still email submitters when I post their thing, but I will no longer email people to explain why theirs didn't get posted. I will respond to other "personal" emails at my discretion. This means, if I feel like it. I'd like to respond to everyone personally, and I appreciate you taking the time to email me. I am trying to resist letting this blog take over my life.

how "reassuring"

While I am sure that other parkers don't "care" either, this one is pretty funny. It's also "family owned and operated" but that's that slogan grey area again. Or gray area, if you're the kind of person who thinks grey is wrong...
Thanks for submitting, Shari.

really it's more of a rule

Ben saw this one in a bathroom in Mazatlan, Mexico. Don't break the "law", kids.


Heidi wrote that her grocery store was full of signs like this recently. She says, "All I could think of was that the manager found a bunch of year old frozen stuff that he forgot to put out and was trying to cover this fact up by advertising them as 'new'."
I guess "new" frozen food is better than "new" produce.

Friday, September 21, 2007

potentially hot

There are quite a few quotation marks on this sign which I find otherwise aesthetically pleasing. You can see it better if you click to enlarge. The quotes around "fresh" are the most faint, but also the most disturbing. Thanks, Phil in Seattle!

some serious press

hey, check it out! The "blog" and I are getting some big press this week. Yesterday I did an interview with an AP writer (see link for story). All of you who have been having fun and "submitting" your stuff can congratulate yourselves for being ahead of the curve.

("superfluous punctuation cake")

Jeff blogged about this cake on his own site (at least I assume it's his). The quotation marks, I suppose, you could explain away since the people are saying it, not the cake, but the parentheses????

Thursday, September 20, 2007

labor day, the inside joke

You can tell how far behind I am, because I am just now posting this one. However, since the event is only taking place on a day that we jokingly refer to as "labor day weekend" maybe it's still coming up. Thanks to Kelly who sent me this and her friend in OK who took the picture.


Check it out! I got linked from Yahoo picks!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"lunch" served 11 pm to midnight

Another one from Teri. She spotted this in Madison, and notes that she has not been to this restaurant, and cannot attest to what they actually serve.

The "feminine" hair product

Originally uploaded by mirthmobile
The layers of this antique sign found in the Men's or "Men's" room at Famous Dave's in Grand Rapids, MI are many and varied.

I'm sure that no one in Eau Claire thought about the double meaning implied by the quotes around Butch. Do they imply a certain sexuality? If they don't, then perhaps the brand name Southern Rose does.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

you know, "on"

Sean found this in a bathroom. They may or may not want you to leave a light on. Or do something else with it, for which "on" is a euphemism.

Monday, September 17, 2007

or wherever

Mike sent me this. I wonder if he's been in the mysterious place they refer to as "in store"...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Really really "proud"

Really really proud
Originally uploaded by mirthmobile
"A recipe we're proud of"
You played a carrot in the 3rd grade play. You got your GED the 2nd time around. Somehow you memorized all the dialogue in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and now this recipe. We couldn't be "prouder."

Found on a menu/placemat in Grand Haven, MI.

nothing does say that

The picture on its own isn't that great, but with Teri's explanation, it kind of is: While sort of technically correct, when I first saw the sign I thought the quotes did not close. Only upon closer inspection did I discover the close quotes outside the box. Also, I would like to point out that I saw this in August. Which holidays are we celebrating with our niece and nephew exactly?:

very emphatic

Maybe since "flat iron" is the name of a company (I guess?) this one is borderline. Scott saw it in Chicago.

what even are chip forks?

Evidently the things in this picture are euphemistically referred to as "chip forks" that need to be dispensed. This must be the fork version of those weird little wooden ice cream spoons. As submitter James says: that's ok, I'll just use my "fingers" instead.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another case of anonymous quotation?

Steve spotted this one in (surprise) Oxford. I have no excuse for the writers. Also, is that a pepper grinder with quotey action marks on it?

"Go Eagles"?

My friend Rachel found this on a certificate of achievement that her sister got when she graduated high school. It might actually be ok since probably cheers fall into the slogan grey area. But the thing has a gold seal, and that's fun.

Friday, September 14, 2007

a not-smooth-ie

Nell photographed this one in venice beach. I also like the quotation-mark-like decoration on this sign, it's like they put them there to attract unnecessary quotation mark hunters!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

so-called customers

I like that this sign features every possible configuration of underline and quotation marks. I also am perplexed by the quote/underline in "their". What is that meant to signify? Thanks to Lori and her friend for sending it to me.

"accident book"

From Rebecca: This accident book has been at my work for ages. The woman who wrote it wrote it without the quotation marks, and then she added them as an afterthough, all fancy like. I watched her do it. I also laughed because she can't spell Personnel. Even though she was the personnel person. She's left now, and now I do her job.

philly and athens

I took this picture. Myself. I know, crazy! So there you go, it's "the"best"?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

your submissions are "sincerely appreciated"

Mike took this picture at a Super 8 in Sioux Falls, SD. I must say, "thank you" seems even more fake polite than the outbreak of "please".

you know, "school"

Another one from Jim who is now at UMD. Possible excuses for the sign-maker: 1) not everyone is in school. 2) some people did school stuff all summer, so it's not really back.

see you "tomorrow"

Jeanette thinks this company doesn't have much faith in the future. I think that sounds like most maintenance companies, where tomorrow means sometime, probably in the future, which could be tomorrow.

those cars stereos....

Gina took this picture in LA. What I find really stunning about it is the excessive quotation marks WITH the correct comma. BUT since there is no apostrophe or comma, I am left to wonder if they mean car's stereos or cars AND stereos. And who calls it a cars stereo anyway?