AN UNFORTUNATE CHOICE OF WORDS
by John M. Floyd
At our church a few weeks ago—and I’m not kidding, here—I was reading the printed bulletin during the first hymn, and I noticed this, written on page two:
“It’s a glorious day—Stand up and sin!”
I consider myself fairly open-minded, but a church bulletin seemed to be a strange place to offer that kind of encouragement, in whatever position. I caught my wife’s eye and pointed to the puzzling statement, but when she saw it she just gave me one of those weary, frosty, will-you-never-grow-up? looks. So I decided it must have been a typo. What a relief.
Those kinds of errors turn up quite a lot in shop windows, advertisements, and newsletters—and sometimes even books and magazines. Misspellings, extra or deleted letters or words, and misplaced modifiers are always a bad thing, and sometimes they’re bad and hilarious at the same time. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to be funny when he’s not trying to be funny.
I choose to believe—or at least hope—that most writing errors are accidental and unintentional. It’s easy to hit the wrong key when you’re typing, especially for me, who still uses the Eagle Method (hover and dive). One mistimed tap of the space bar can turn does not into doe snot, an expression that your computer’s spellchecker will happily approve. Or you might to forget to hit a key at all, which can result in telling people to sin rather than sing. But I also realize that some of these errors in wording are made because, sadly, the writer just doesn’t know any better. I’m always reminded of the lady at a block party years ago who informed me, dead serious, that she had a photogenic memory.
Anyhow, I’ve gathered a few of these grammar/spelling misfires that I happen to remember from the past twenty years or so. Some of them appeared in the “Jest for Fun” section of a delightful little magazine called Short Stuff for Grownups, which published a few of my stories years ago, but I can’t recall where I heard or saw the others. I do hope, if any of them are real, that whoever wrote them was then able to find employment elsewhere.
Here they are:
Strengthen your abominable muscles today!
Smile at someone who’s hard to love. Say “Hell” to someone who doesn’t know much about you.
Get your restaurant supplies here: trashcans, food containers, moping equipment.
For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Remember in prayer those who are sick of our community.
The government will try to control flooding by putting dames in the river.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 p.m. at the Community Center. Please use large double doors on the south side of the building.
The seats of senators should be vaccinated every six years.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5 p.m.—Prayer and medication to follow.
Ms. Larson recently received a plague for Salesperson of the Year.
Attend the next meeting and you will hear an excellent speaker and heave a healthy lunch.
Automatic washing machines. Please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.
The sermon topic tonight will be “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.
We make combs for people with unbreakable teeth.
The pastor is asking ladies of the congregation to lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Woman in divorce suit decides to go for the juggler.
Toilet out of order—Please use floor below.
The Chamber of Commerce will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment, and gracious hostility.
Now hiring: fat and accurate typists.
A bean supper will be held Thursday night in the school cafeteria. Music will follow.
LOST: a pony belonging to a lady with a silver mane and tail.
Proceeds of the food drive will be used to cripple children.
A flower’s pistol protects it against insects.
Many of our city’s residents suffer from sick as hell anemia.
After a three-day pursuit, the suspect turned himself into a policeman.
The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”
The performers received a standing ovulation.
Gone rabbi hunting. Back tomorrow.
The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Monday afternoon.
Sofa bed for sale—with mattress and cousins.
This establishment is not responsible for personal staff left unattended.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
Charles Cooper was instrumental in ruining the entire sales operation.
Man arrested for possession of heroine.
The security guard constipated my camera.
Ladies’ Bible Study will be held Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. Everyone is invited to lunch in the fellowship hall when the B. S. is finished.
Try our donuts—None like them.
So how do we, as writers, avoid this kind of thing? Proofread, I guess. And then when you know it’s right, proofread again. These errors are great fun for readers, but they give journalists, sign-painters, and church secretaries a bad name.
By the way, area authors are invited to attend the “Why Don’t Writers Get More Respect?” seminar at the Brandon Library this Friday at noon. Please use rear entrance.