Thursday, September 23, 2010

Politics and Semantics

I am going through my old myspace account before deleting it and I thought I'd post some of what I wrote over there to this blog in order to consolidate. This was from March 22, 2007.

A week ago I saw a sign on the library door that read:



At first I had to reread it because upon my original scan I thought it said that libraries will be closed on "historic low usage day." Since I had never heard of that day I knew it wasn't a holiday. Then my second thought was that it had something to do with electricity (low usage/low wattage), which is odd that I didn't automatically assume it meant low library patronage. Those thoughts rushed through my mind so quickly that I realized neither was the case almost as fast as I wondered it.

I'm fascinated by the wording on this sign. The note is saying that the library will be closed on Easter, but why didn't they just leave it at that. "All libraries will be closed on Easter, Sunday April 8." Why the explanation that on Easter, not many people visit the library system? Is the city-run library system distancing themselves from a Christian holiday by saying that BECAUSE people won't be using the library (as history dictates) they won't be open? That day just HAPPENS to be Easter, a Christian holiday? As if they could just as easily choose any other day to be closed that's not historically well attended? Is Easter the real reason the library will be closed, but they can't say they are closing for a religious holiday? If the library admitted to be closed in observance of a Christian holiday could they be sued for not also observing a Muslim holiday, for example?

I thought about all these questions on the drive back home and for the past week and still haven't decided what reason is most likely true. Any of them could be. All of them could be. Now I'm back to being impressed by the wording. It is briefly perfect and fully educational. I can't think of a better way to say all that information. "Not many people come to the library on Easter, which is Sunday April 8 this year, so the library won't be open." Too wordy. "We are not saying we are or are not celebrating Easter, but we won't be open because in the past people generally don't visit the library." That obviously won't do.

Any shorter way I think to write this leaves out a vital bit of information. "The library will be closed on April 8 due to low attendance" - WHY? What's going on April 8? "The library will be closed on Easter" - When is Easter? As already mentioned, are they celebrating a Christian holiday?

Good job, Seattle Public Library. I wonder how many other people are as impressed with this sign as I am. Other grammar nerds, no doubt.

My humor

I find this definition for "eye" kind of funny:

A nearly spherical hollow organ that is lined with a sensitive retina, is lodged in a boney orbit in the skull, is the vertebrate organ of sight, and is normally paired. –Merriam Webster's Medical Dictionary

(normally paired, if you're lucky)