Tag Archives: capital letters

No, No, a Thousand Times No

Common wisdom says that we’re living in an “anything goes” era, when the norms of society have been run through a wood-chipper. This may be true, but it hasn’t stopped people from attempting to regulate — and especially to prohibit — various forms of behavior. Witness this sign:









Okay, I understand the passion that prompted this sign. Who wants to dig into plumbing and remove food, not to mention cat litter? What intrigues me is the capitalization. Why throw a capital letter at a “Q-Tip” and withhold one from “baby wipes”? Maybe it’s a brand-name issue, but I doubt there’s a copyrighted product called “Food” or “Sanitary Towels.” Before I move on to the next sign, I should mention that I’m not completely sure what  “baby wipes even they are flushable (they really are not)” means. I’m leaning toward “don’t believe the blurb on the package,” a statement that I apply to everything I buy.

And then there’s this sign in a public plaza:









I understand most of these prohibitions, even though I don’t necessarily agree with the choices. “Bike crossing” makes me imagine a Schwinn spending some private time with a Citibike, and before you know it, a bike crossing occurs.  Just kidding. In real life, my best guess is that “crossing” refers to cutting diagonally from one street to another that’s perpendicular. But is it really necessary to state that a bike shouldn’t be ridden through a twisted, narrow path in a plaza full of people, many of whom are little kids? This is New York, so the answer is probably yes, but because this is New York, the sign  won’t make one bit of difference. While reading and puzzling over the sign, the cyclist will probably run into someone anyway.

Moving (but not cycling) on:









How did “music” arrive on this list? And is “site safety prohibited”? And is music that dangerous? Having lived through the Sixties, I agree that revolutions have soundtracks. Still, it’s disturbing to see music listed with smoking, drugs, and weapons. I do love the last line, especially “shall be strictly enforced.” “Shall,” which once upon a time was the emphatic form in the third person (as you see it here), has largely given way to “will” in American English. Adhering to this venerable usage makes me want to observe every rule this site-manager insists on.  I just have to say yes, yes, a thousand times yes, to anyone who writes “shall be.”


Necessary Information

In colonial New England, the “necessary” was the room where you took care of necessary bodily functions — in other words, the toilet, restroom, lavatory, bathroom, latrine, powder room — pick your favorite term. (Off-topic but interesting: Why are there so many words for the same place?) The people in charge of these facilities appear to believe that they have to supply information to those who use them, as you see in this sign, which states what I would have thought was fairly obvious:









Okay, is there someone out there who thinks leaving the door open is standard procedure? I should point out that this restroom is right next to the eating area of a small café. You can hear people munching through the closed (and locked) door when you’re inside, and I guess the people outside occasionally hear you. So is a reminder really necessary? Plus, the first statement cries out for a direct object (“before you use the facilities” or something similar). I’d also like to see a period after “Thank you,” which isn’t, I admit, a sentence but seems to need closure.

Onward and ungrammatically upward, as in capital letters:

The sign wants to direct your throwing arm (actually, hand, according to the illustration), but the sign writer throws capital letters around at random. Also note the absence of a period at the end of the sentence — which really is a sentence.

One more:









Aren’t restrooms constructed for “conducting personal hygiene practices”? Isn’t that the whole point? This beauty, by the way, sat atop a sink. I washed my hands anyway. I hope everyone else does, too. It’s necessary.


(Truly Real) Real Estate

When the apartment building on my corner was nearing completion, I checked the ads selling its apartments. I wasn’t buying; I was simply nosy. The website touted the idea that the property was “steps from Central Park.” True, if you take a lot of steps. Like, a LOT of steps – a brisk ten minutes’ worth, not counting time spent waiting at red lights. With that definition, every location is steps from Central Park – Nebraska, for example. You just have to keep walking.

That advertisement underscores the need for vigilance in approaching the New York City housing market. Only with constant attention will you know the exact moment when hipsters move in where hip-replacements once dominated. The language of this market is odd. The New York Times once wrote about the true meaning of some common real estate terms. I don’t remember all of them (and I may have added a few myself), but here is a selection:

  • Cozy means the kitchen is the size  of a bathmat.
  •  Private or secluded refers to an apartment whose windows face a brick wall.
  • townhouse feel guarantees that passersby can watch you sip your morning coffee through sidewalk-level windows.
  • If you have skyline views, you probably have to take a train to work.
  • A charming apartment has an intact, never renovated (or cleaned) 1950s bathroom, which matches the style and condition of other rooms.

And speaking of rooms, do apartments in other cities have half rooms, as in two-and-a-half-room apartment? I never have decoded that one. Does a half room lack a wall? A ceiling? Or just space? If the last definition applies, is there an official standard for half and whole? Most NYC rooms would be third or quarter rooms anywhere else.

And then there are other claims:

No machines?

No machines?

It took three trips to this construction site to get a photo not blocked by cranes and other heavy machinery, which presumably were not working on these apartments because then the sign would (gasp) be a lie.

I have more to say about what real in NYC real estate, but I’ll save it for another post. My home isn’t handcrafted, but my cleaning is. See you after the vacuuming is done.

And if you have any real real estate stories, feel free to send them in.


Capital Offenses

A completely unscientific survey of signs in New York City reveals that very few sign-writers understand the conventions of capitalization. Or perhaps they do, and don’t care. Or maybe the store owners wish to associate themselves with the iMac and iPad, with the hope that unconventional capitalization will lead to the level of success Apple enjoys. Regardless, capital offenses abound.

Some sign-writers opt for all caps:









Nothing wrong with this practice – on signs – though all-caps employed to “shout” in emails and blog comments can be quite annoying.

Other signs strew capital letters randomly:










Notice the “State of the Art Subway Line.” Nothing in Standard English calls for capital letters in those words. Perhaps the sign-writer was excited about the “Second Avenue Subway Project,” which I capitalized, as did the sign-writer, because that’s the name of something, in this case a construction site that was originally scheduled for completion years ago and, contrary to what the sign says, shows no sign of being ready by 2016 – or 2017, for that matter. By the way, in Standard English the word “the” is usually not part of a name and therefore is written in lowercase (non-caps).

One more capital letter sign, on a Fifth Avenue store:

Note "the Renovation"!

Note “the Renovation”!



The usual practice is to capitalize the name of important historical eras, such as the Enlightenment (which lasted a century, give or take a few years) or the Middle Ages (which endured for maybe 1000 years).  This store apparently believes that their construction work will go on for quite a while and hit the history books, or at least Wikipedia.

Full disclosure: part of this post was originally a separate page in the “Signs of the City” section, which I am slowing dismantling and placing in the “posts” portion of this site. As far too many signs say, sorry for the inconvenience.