Monday, January 15, 2007

EnglishWatch

Especially for Pashmina*

I saw this notice sellotaped to the automatic doors of Chiswick M&S today:

The automatic doors are not working at this current time. Please use the other doors.

Please don your deconstruction helmets and prepare to march on M&S HQ wielding sawn-off copies of the Economist Style Guide.


* Whom it was lovely to see at the already legendary GW convention on Saturday, along with fellow bloggers and commenters Aimee, cello, ducatilady, Heather, Marsha Klein, realdoc and many, many more...top day all round!

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

are you referring to the redundancy of the phrase "this current time?" It's not great (should either be "this time" or "the current time") but it's hardly a hanging offence.

Wyndham said...

Yes, I've been quite scared to comment, and others are by the look of it, because, well, erm, you see, um, oh dear, I can't see what's wrong with it.

Um.

patroclus said...

Tsk, wait there you two while I summon my dark army of language pedants and sub-editors. Hands behind your backs, no talking. Or chewing.

*makes fearful summoning noise*

patroclus said...

Oh piss, it doesn't seem to be working. Dammit, where are Pashmina and DavetheF (the Two Horsepeople of the Apostrophocalypse) when I need them?

Um, well, ah, you see, the first sentence could (nay, should) have ended with a full stop after the word 'working', with no loss of meaning.

Yes, I know, I'm sorry, but it was either that or the fact that they didn't have any rice and sundried tomato salad in stock today.

Next week: is grammar the new oral sex?

Billy said...

Oh dear and I thought they were good grammar-wise there: 5 items or fewer etc.

belladona said...

*Kicks self for beng too lame to get arse into gear and get to convention*

Pashmina said...

"At this current time" is just unnecessary in every way. "At the moment" would have done. Even better would have been:

Automatic doors temporarily out of order. Please use alternative entrance.

or indeed exit, as the case may be. I'm not a big fan of the definite article in public signage.

Better late than never, eh?

Convention was top, even if I did have to sneak out mid-auction. Such a shame you couldn't make it, Bella...

patroclus said...

Bella: It really is a shame you couldn't make it, it would have been great to see you!

Billy: Yes, I'll admit they've done well with the 'fewer', but what about the 'never start a sentence with a numeral' rule, eh? Have they thought of that? Have they buggery.

Pash: Oo, this is new to me. Why no definite articles in public signage? Also I don't think that 'temporarily' is necessary - the public doesn't need to know that the door will be mended at some point, all they need to know is that they can't get in that way. Plus the doors have actually been broken since Thursday. Chiswick's obviously going to the dogs. We'll be getting an Asda next. I'd best get on to the Daily Mail.

Betty said...

With not having never had no proper educayshun and that, I can't really complain about poor use of grammar, but it's difficult to top Glen Hoddle's "at this moment in time, I never said them things". A beauty, even by the standards of other football managers.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but these weren't just automatic doors. They were post-modern-ironic, non-operational drizzled in Sellotape M&S doors.

(Love the Apostrophocalypse btw!)

Anonymous said...

Pashmina: your corrected version would have given me far more reasons to cringe than the original. Where's your verb???

patroclus said...

Ooh, begun the Grammar Wars have!

baggiebird said...

Hey. Just wanted to pop on and say How nice it was to meet you on Saturday and what was a fantastic day it was. I'm just sorry I didn't get chance to talk to you more. By the way did you play spoon of destiny, because if you did I think I have a photo of you in action.

patroclus said...

Baggie, it was lovely to meet you too, and I was very, very impressed at the effort that you and the others had clearly put into it!

I didn't play Spoon of Destiny, sadly, although I quite wish I had. It's not every day you get the opportunity to battle Stephen Mangan with a teaspoon.

POE said...

Why did no-one's blogs mention the convention beforehand?! You have no idea how crushed I am at the moment.

I shall post this on all the blogs that mention it because each one seems to mention something else fantastic that I missed.

As to M&S - at least their signs are following their clothing in the downhill slide. They're being consistent.

Spinsterella said...

For what it's worth (not that I know much on these matters what with being edumacated in the 80s when grammar had fallen right out of fashion) I would say:

"The automatic doors are not working. Please use the other doors."

Works just as well without the 'the's, but I like 'em.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be a pedant but you seemed to have strayed off the grammar arguement into one of semantics.
Hang on maybe that's me showing my ignorance as to where grammar ends and semantics begins...just use the other door.

Anonymous said...

Argument bugger

patroclus said...

Yes, my initial criticism was about style rather than grammar, but an argument about whether or not a verb should be present is definitely a grammar argument.

Yours, Dr Alan Statham, Emeritus Professor of Pedantry and Upside-Down X-Rays.

Meanwhile, the lovely Mr BC observed earlier that the sign on the door of M&S (which is STILL THERE) says 'at the present time', not 'at the current time'. My case still stands, though.

And they didn't have any rice and sundried tomato salad today either.

baggiebird said...

Steve Mangan playing Spoon of Destiny and the session of splicing the Materhorn we had we're just great. I have to say I really didn't do that much I was just asked to help out with the games, and sorcing a few items that were required on the day, all the thanks should go to Spence, Kate, Terri, Waxy & Heather they put all the hard work in.

violetforthemoment said...

"At this current time" just suggests to me someone trying to sound lofty and showing themselves up. Reminded me of a fax I got from a prison lately, in the poorly formed handwriting of a tiny child, requesting that some information be 'Forwarded for the Attention of Myself' (their caps). Ooh, how professional you sound. I'd better do that right away.

Sorry, I get right narky about stuff like that and I know it's probably very arrogant of me. They'd done load sof greengrocer's apostrophes too. I shredded the fax immediately. I couldn't stop myself.

violetforthemoment said...

Ooh, I just knew I'd have missed a typo in that post.

Interpreter Pavlov said...

Deep waters here. Not 'the' deep waters, note. (While I remember, thank you for your exemplary use of the accusative of 'who' in your third paragraph.)

The 'the' in 'the automatic doors' is arguably redundant in that it refers to the global generality of automatic doors, i.e. all automatic doors anywhere in the world. The same could be said, maybe with more cogency, if the notice had read simply 'Automatic doors...'. If the question is one of specificity, the notice should have read 'These automatic doors...'. However, an automatic door is fulfilling half its function perfectly efficiently when closed, so that it's only half true to claim that it isn't working. Consequently the notice should have read 'These automatic doors do not open'.

Use of the present tense here implies that any supplementary indication of the time is otiose, so comment on the function of 'current' (in my view mistaken, as current means 'running' and only means 'present' by extension; cf. 'Time, like an ever-rolling stream [i.e.current] Bears all its sons away') is needless. Taiga the Fox will confirm this, I'm sure. So will Arabella.

Time for my evening Bailey's. Good friends on the outside smuggle it in for me. Any automatic doors here, I'm afraid, resolutely fulfil that half of their function referred to above.

patroclus said...

I reckon it's a third, viz.:

Function 1: to be open

Function 2: to be closed

Function 3: to move automatically from one state to the other

Ergo, the automatic doors are only fulfilling one third of their designated function.

The Automatic Doors is a Japanese robot Doors tribute band, which strikes up a synthesised bubblegum pop rendition of 'Light My Fire' whenever anyone wearing a Bluetooth headset strays too close to it.

I'm just waiting for Lucien de la Peste to confirm that this is not in fact a lame joke of mine, but actually in very fact true.

Billy said...

"Automatic doors temporarily manual. Please don't forget to open them yourself."

How does that sound?

Anonymous said...

"Automatic" doors don't actually exist. Only doors that I open using the Force when I approach them.

Pashmina said...

"Temporarily" (I like to give people some hope).
No definite articles unless necessary, on the basis that the fewer words there are in this kind of sign, the larger the type can be and therefore the more legible the sign. In theory at least.
I do not apologise for the lack of verb, because it's not a sentence as such, it's a notice.

Grammar Wars, though - great idea...

wv: moomcuf, which is surely an item of clothing favoured by a small Finnish animal...

nibus said...

Chiswick is very lucky. Had this sign been in Slough, it would have read "DORS FUKED". Which leaves nobody in any doubt whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

"Currant Thyme" could have been from the new M&S Blumenthal range being brought in to shore up the food department.

Mike Giggler (via email)

Anonymous said...

I saw a sign today in a shop window that said "Coming Real Soon..."

I swear, the next person to use the adj 'real' in place of the adv 'really' is going to get my foot up their arse!!!!

(sorry for the rant. i figured if i could get some sympathy anywhere it would here around here.)

violetforthemoment said...

~sympathises~

Use of the word 'long' instead of 'a long time' (as in "I've been waiting here for long!")should also be punishable by arsekicking.

Anonymous said...

VfortheM, I havn't come across that particular sin, but I hope I never do!