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Friday, August 12, 2022
Ross’ Ramblings: Signs of the times grow wordy, verbose and palaverous

Back in Canada's wonderful and chest-expanding 1967 Centennial Year, which was also my second year of Grade 13 at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in St. Catharines, our precise and eloguent British-born English teacher Mr. Bartlett would ask us, “Why use just one or two simple words to emphasize a point, when two or three less well-known words would suffice?” 

During the current lockdown, many of us have too much time on our hands. So, indulge me while I ramble about wordy signs.

To be clear, our local signs should obey the concept of K.I.S.S.  Keep it simple and straightforward.  Instead of “This Outdoor Amenity is closed,” how about “Playground Closed” or “Tennis Courts Closed.”  

It seems that sign makers and sign authors are paid by the word. I learned this in 1972 while working  at the Olympic Games Village in Munich for three months. The host city had to provide all signage in three languages. French, to remember Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the visionary (misogynist) founder of the modern Olympics in 1896, English, as a widely used international language, and German, for obvious reasons.

Hundreds of taxi stands were verbosely signed “Taxi, Taxis, Taxi.”

But back to our piece of geographical and cultural paradise.

What used to be simple and direct has become verbose, euphuistic (look up euphemism) and a bit too much. 

For example, I recently saw a metal sign indicating a “Tow Away Zone.” It read, and I'm not making this up, “All Vehicles noted to be in violation of Parking Policies will be Relocated.”  

Right here on Niagara-on-the-Lake's high street, Queen Street, in front of an ice cream shoppe, we see temporary metal fencing and professionally made signs reading, “Cows Staging Area.” Huh? Where should we line up?

In a local public park, new and laminated signs read, Ryerson Park SURVEY. We want your feedback. “The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is soliciting public engagement regarding the use of this park (Ryerson Park).” Soliciting public engagement? Sheesh, eh?

The newest “Welcome Signs” at our playgrounds include some 14 instructions. To pass muster, we must use parks only during daylight hours, inspect play equipment before using, we cannot run, push or shove,and we must wear proper footwear at all times. We must stay away from moving swings and the bottom of slides.

Do they think citizens using these playgrounds are children? With no common sense? No skipping ropes and adult supervision is recommended. Not required?

Hopefully I am not being whiny. Just observin' and commentin'.

This global pandemic is forcing new thoughts and actions by various levels of government.

Our leaders have so many responsibilities. To name a few: Safe water, safe roads, education, parks and recreation, libraries, policing and the list goes on.

I thank them, but respectfully ask that potential liabilities and potential legal fees do not totally rule the day.  

How about providing our beleaguered bylaw officers with colourful, unique uniforms? Perhaps the great Angie Strauss could design clothing more welcoming than the current dark blue militaristic uniforms? Just thinkin' 

And while I am expressing gratitude, let's have a shout out for the hardworking, happy and courteous crew from Circle P Paving. They started at 7:01 a.m. on Monday, April 19, and except for two snow days, haven't stopped upgrading our streets in Chautauqua. It has been amazing to watch. As the foreman said, “This is what we do, eh?

So, in the year 2021, I cannot find words or energy to talk about the “Alcohol in the Parks” kerfuffle.

My late mother would say, “Goodness gracious me. Grow up.”

As ever, she gets the last word.

Think positive. Test negative.