I TOOK BERNI to her morning coffee at a nearby Starbucks she wakes up five days a week with that place’s caffeine and a book before going to work. On the way back home, I drove past a local chain restaurant. Their sign advertised the following:
Now, if English is your native language, your brain registers exactly what the sign-maker intended: that they are offering a lunch special for five dollars. But that is NOT what the words say!
Because they included the symbol for dollars ($), what the sign actually says is that they are offering a “buck lunch” (whatever that may be) for $5.
The misuse of the rules of grammar and punctuation is so common (I could say “ubiquitous” and be overstating the case, or I could say “rampant” and get away with it) that most of us pay no attention to it! Oddly, this is happening at a time when books on grammar and punctuation may be at an all-time high in terms of titles in print and actual sales.
Perhaps the best known of the recent books is Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, a delightful read on the misuse of punctuation (primarily in her native England). This book astounded the publishing industry by selling hundreds of thousands of copies in Great Britain in 2003, before taking the American book scene by storm the next year.
She exhorts her readers to take notice of improperly punctuated signs in business establishments and bring them to the attention of the proprietors. (She calls herself and others who notice gaffes and shudder at them “sticklers”).
Now, I have no intention of stopping or calling the management of the restaurant and correcting them. But I hope that I am not the only person who chuckles when he drives past and wonders what’s in that “buck lunch” …