Tag Archives: spelling

Grade: D+

I wrote an earlier post (http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?p=1012) about a luncheonette interested in hiring a “grilled man” for food prep:

Grilled and Deli Man









Somehow it took the shop owners a long time to find someone suitable. I can’t imagine why.  I also can’t imagine why adding a D where it doesn’t belong is a growing trend. Check out this restaurant’s boast:




I know reality television shows are popular, but I had no idea that food “lived” on television. Do they lock the veggies and chops in a house and film clashes between them? Or drop them in a picturesque spot and vote a certain number of calories off the island each week? I assume the signwriter intended to say “live,” as in “happening now.” But doesn’t the fact that this sign’s been around for months invalidate the whole concept? I stopped in anyway; lunch was delicious.

Another stray D wandered into this sign:


Okay, I can see “specializing” or “specialists.” But “specialized”? The past participle “specialized” implies that the employees used to focus on “hand cleaning & theatrical costumes”  but now have a broader range. Or, they dropped out of the field entirely. And then there’s “hand cleaning.” Don’t most people take care of that chore themselves? Despite the fact that this is a city where many people have breakfast, lunch, and dinner delivered, not to mention laundry and just about every other human need, you’d think hand cleaning would be an in-house job, even if not a personal one. I also note that the cleaners work “on” their “own plants.” Are we talking begonias here? Factories? I’ll figure that one out later. Someone’s coming over now to clean my hands.

Apostrophes. Sigh.

If I had my way, apostrophes would be exiled from English. My reasons are sound. Many perfectly fine languages do quite well without this punctuation mark. Plus, few people misunderstand the writer’s intended meaning just because an errant apostrophe has crashed a sentence or gone AWOL. Alas, I don’t have my way very often, and never in matters of apostrophes. Perhaps that’s why I seldom bother snapping photos of the many errors I see on signs around New York. But every once in a while, I can’t resist. This sign caught my eye yesterday:







I’m fine with an apostrophe-less “ladies,” because nouns do morph into adjectives at times (e.g. “Yankees baseball”). However, “mens” isn’t a noun. In fact, it’s not even a word. “Men” is an irregular plural, so the only legitimate term is “men’s,” the possessive form. But are the alternatives fair?  You can write “ladies’ & men’s” or “ladies and men” and claim symmetry and equality.  Yet while you might talk about “ladies tailoring” you probably wouldn’t say “men tailoring.” (The technical reason: It doesn’t sound right. Plus, who’s to say that you’re not talking about a guy waving a tape measure around?) Despite the difficulty of fashioning an apostrophe in neon, I think this sign should read  “ladies’ and men’s.”

This sign writer took a different approach:


Fairness demands that because you can have a “man cave,” you should also be able to have a “man shirt.” Working backward on the logic chain to the first sign in this post, you end up with “woman and man tailoring.” I can live with that usage. In fact, I can think of many a woman and man I wouldn’t mind tailoring to my specifications  — talks less, vacuums more, stuff like that. But strict grammarians might object.

One more for (and from) the road:


Why do people keep trying to make plurals with apostrophes? Upstate’s “hen’s” may be the “happiest,” but I bet upstate’s grammarians are pretty glum. They may even be the “unhappiest grammarian’s.”

Bad Mood

New Yorkers are not normally celebrated for their cheery outlook, and current events haven’t improved the mood around the city. So this photo, sent by my friend Catherine, seems particularly relevant right now:

All natural ingredients!

All natural ingredients.









Gripe jelly – gives a whole new slant on “you are what you eat,” doesn’t it? If your New Year’s resolution was to be more peaceful,  you may want to avoid the jelly at this Lexington Avenue deli.

Moving on, here’s a sign from a truck parked on East 78th Street:

I can break my remote all by myself, thanks.

Remote control breaking?









I was under the impression that most people break the remote all by themselves. I do it all the time, usually by dropping it in a bowl of whatever I’m eating while I watch TV. But if this sign is accurate, you can hire someone else for that chore. Busy New Yorkers, take note. Alternate interpretation: If it’s too much trouble to attend, say, a political debate and bang your head against the wall in frustration, a techie will break your skull with a keystroke at a distant (probably outsourced) computer company. How convenient.

By the way, if anyone actually understands the meaning of “remote control breaking,” please let me know. In the meantime, snack on some gripe jelly and enjoy your bad mood.

The Price Is (Maybe) Right

Some luxury marketers brag that if you have to ask how much something costs, you can’t afford to buy it. But we non-one-percenters do need to know how much of our hard-earned money we’re plunking down. Which question is hard to answer, if you rely on signs like these:

Any 1/2 hours?

Any 1/2 hours?









How much do you pay to park here, not counting tax? If this were a math problem on the SAT, your choices might be (A) $4.22 for the whole day (B) $4.22 for a half hour (C) $4.22 for some unspecified number of half hours or (D) any of the above, depending upon how well you tip the parking attendant at holiday time. I’d probably go for (D), realistic New Yorker that I am, but (B) is not out of the question. But how can a driver figure out the price while whizzing past this parking lot, eyes (hopefully) on pedestrians, other cars, and bicycles?

Car parked, you may want to eat a little something. Specifically, six inches of something:

Six inches of what?

Six inches of what?

This sign hangs in the window of a sandwich shop, so I guess you’re paying for a “six-inch” roll, with one of six designated fillings. But if it’s a meal, do you also get six inches of beverage? If so, is the liquid in a narrow test tube or in a broad-mouthed beer stein? I’m hoping for dessert, too. Maybe a six-inch éclair.

One more:

Those two-letter words will get you every time.

My favorite word is now OT.









I don’t usually bother posting spelling mistakes (too easy a target), but it’s not often I find a misspelled two-letter word. I imagine that “OT” should be “TO.” Even after you adjust the spelling, though, you have to wonder whether the rent is “up ot” half off. After all, the sign specifies “EVERYTHING,” so you can make a case for false advertising if rent is not discounted too.

The moral of this story: Buyer beware!




Don’t Mess with a Grandma

I more or less gave up on apostrophes a long time ago. There seems to be a cosmic jar filled with this punctuation mark, which writers shake over their texts, letting apostrophes fall willy-nilly into words. Thus I ignored this sign, which shoves an apostrophe into a plural, where it does not belong:

Tuesday's. Sigh.

Tuesday’s. Sigh.

Some grammarians call this usage a “greengrocer’s apostrophe.” (Notice the correct use of the possessive apostrophe in the term, which names a punctuation error.) Why “greengrocer’s”? My opinion, based on no research whatsoever, is that people who use this term believe a shopkeeper (greengrocer) is more likely than a non-business owner to insert apostrophes into plurals. That belief doesn’t match my experience. If I stacked all the student essays, term papers, and other writing I graded and corrected during my teaching career, the top of the pile would be within spitting distance of the moon and maybe even topple over onto a moon rock or two. Nearly all of those writing efforts included a “greengrocer’s apostrophe,” and none of the students were grocers, though many were (environmentally) green.

Though I scarcely glance at extra apostrophes, I did stop short when I saw this sign:


Granny’s combative.









The color difference between the first and last pair of lines initially led me to believe that the tavernkeeper was making a statement about grandmothers and their alleged capacity to slug someone. But I’m a grandmother, and though sorely tempted at times, I have never punched anyone. Then I noticed that no punctuation appeared anywhere at all. Perhaps the sign is a statement about grannies’ tendency to wallop cocktails, I mused. (Sidepoint: There are hot cocktails? Who knew! ) The image of grandmothers bopping martinis, mimosas, and other drinks made me wonder whether a new temperance movement was brewing. I still don’t know what the sign means. Just to be safe, I have one piece of advice: Don’t mess with a grandma, especially when she’s drinking.

Grade D+

I’ve written elsewhere (“Missing and Presumed” at http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?p=311) about dropping the letter D from expressions such as “grill cheese,” “old fashion,” and “never close, open 24/7.” This sign has the opposite problem:

Grilled and Deli Man

Grilled and Deli Man









Reflected light mars the photo, so to clarify, the store is hiring a “Delivery, Cashier, Grilled & Deli Man.” If I take the noun “man” as the center of this statement from a non-equal-opportunity- employer, the other words serve as modifiers. So the store seeks a “delivery man,” a “cashier man” (turning the noun “cashier” into an adjective), and a “grilled and deli man.”

The last phrase leads me to a couple of questions. Does an applicant have to submit proof that detectives placed him in a windowless room under a bright lamp where they grilled him for hours about, presumably, his qualifications for working in a deli? I can hear the boss now: “Pre-grilled applicants save interview time.” Or is the shop hiring a man who has spent some time over charcoal? I shudder at that last possibility. I shudder at the spelling/grammar error too, but less. Much less.

What’s Up?

Common wisdom holds that New Yorkers are constantly on the move. We walk fast, we talk fast, and we live in “the city that never sleeps.” Yet the number of stores advertising laundry services implies that we’re also a lazy lot. We value our couch-potato time too much to hang around watching a washer and dryer clean our clothes – or even to visit the site where these machines are located. So we have someone else stop by, empty the hamper, and take the stuff away. The problem is that no one seems to agree on what this service should be called. Check out these signs:

P1010852 (2)






P1010854 (3) P1010879


To hyphenate or not to hyphenate seems to be the question when you compare the first two signs, but the third throws in  another possibility: a single word. Which is right? A quick dictionary search on the Internet reveals that as a verb (We will pick up your laundry), two separate words are the only way to go.  Many sites call for a single word (pickup) when you need a noun referring to one, unified action. After digging a bit, I located one hyphenated noun (pick-up). But only one. If you favor majority rule, dump the hyphen.

I confess that I love this sign best, though in no way is it correct in Standard English:

IC - Where are you?

IC – Where are you?




How economical. The customer doesn’t pay for the pk up, and the shop-owner doesn’t pay for the letters I and C.

I’ll end with the other side of the equation – the return. Here’s my favorite sign for this service:







This sign appears on the awning of a liquor store. I assume you’re not surprised. If you are, have a couple of drinks. You’ll then discover that we delivery makes perfect sense. In fact, after a few swigs of good Chianti,  I delivery – and you are too!






How’s that again?

As a New Yorker, I’m used to oddities. I once waited for the green light on a midtown corner. It was raining hard. A fully-clothed woman standing next to me was calmly lathering shampoo into her hair. No one even blinked – including me. But these signs gave me pause.

First up is this one, which I saw on the window of a toy store:

A sidewalk inside?

A sidewalk inside?









I’m not sure what bothered me more: the location of the sidewalk or the idea of a private store selling a public sidewalk. Maybe it was the price. Ten bucks for a sidewalk is a real bargain.

And then there’s this notice from the same shop:

Does the stock get dental benefits?

Does the stock get dental benefits?









Yes, I know that they mean “We are hiring people to work in sales or in the stockroom,” but I’m a grammarian, so I’m picky. It comes with the territory.

One more, from a pharmacy:

How about your "ill being"?

How about your “ill being”?


To talk about one’s happiness and health, you need the term well-being (with a hyphen) or wellbeing (one word). When you separate the two, the word well describes being. Presumably the pharmacy isn’t interested only in those whose being is happy and healthy. I’d like to think that they are also committed to people who aren’t feeling well.

That’s enough pickiness for one day. Be well!

Expensive Words

The old saying, “words are cheap,” isn’t always relevant when it comes to marketing strategy. Add an old word – especially one that appears British – and the price rises. In these signs, holdovers and resurrected terms signal merchandise that costs more and (they hope you’ll think) that is actually worth the extra money. First, pharmaceuticals:

An apothecary!

An apothecary!



Chain pharmacies – Duane Reed, Walgreens, and Rite Aid in my neighborhood – could never be apothecaries. They emphasize price (as in low) and convenience. In my imagination, an apothecary wears a striped apron and requires a few minutes of polite chit-chat before filling your prescription or directing you to the toe-fungus section. (Not that I have toe fungus.)  In a non-apothecary (the word apothecary applies to both the person and the shop), I don’t expect a discount. I do expect personal service and a gentle shopping experience.

I expect the same in this food store:

Not general items here. Only specialties.

No general food here. Only specialties.



Doesn’t purveyor sounds better than merchant? About 20% better, judging by the prices for the specialty foods within. Don’t go into this store searching for, say, a box of Wheaties or a Hershey chocolate bar. Instead, look for food with advanced degrees – of both pretention and price.

Every rule has an exception. This store, in NYC’s garment district, sells doo-dads that attach to clothing (buttons, lace, sequins, and the like). This banner features a blast from the past:

Not from a research study!

Not from a research study!



The term findings  more frequently appears in connection with an inquiry, poll, or research project. In this sign, though, it means “tools or materials used by artisans,” according to dictionary.com. Comparing this shop with others on the block, I found lower prices and slightly scruffier décor in the findings store. (Or should I say shoppe?) Perhaps in this case, the owner modernized neither language nor prices.

I’ll keep searching for strange words, and let you know my findings.








Station(a) (e) ry

In an old joke, someone asks, “Do you have trouble making up your mind?” The reply: “Well, yes and no.” I thought of this exchange when I saw this sign on an awning:




I saw this sign on a board in front of the same store:











The store, which has, to put it mildly, an eclectic inventory, needs a new awning. It sells paper goods and office supplies (stationery), not an adjective meaning “fixed in one place” (stationary).   The sandwich board could use some revision, too, as you can sell  “beauty aids” (objects) but not  “aides” (people who assist).  Still, at “99 Cents Plus,” the price is right, even if the spelling isn’t. See you later. It’s time to go shopping.