Signs of the Tribune

18 Jul

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Right, we won’t. Will. Won’t. Hang on. How many intensifying negatives did we decide the English language could support? Or is this, in fact, a very British kind of litotical imperative (“Put it this way, old man: I’m not asking you not to take it”)?

There’s something decidedly odd going on with signs in this building. We came across this beauty a few months ago:

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and it baffled us so completely that we had to call in the awesome human computer that is Language Log to decipher it. And  last year – I swear – I saw a sign on the exit from the lift lobby that read: “Please use the other side of this door.” The Tribune’s a pretty liberal organ, but I didn’t think we were capable of quite such dimensionally enhanced thinking as that.

I don’t know what’s causing it, but I strongly suspect that the sheer density of sub-editors in the building* has created a sort of syntactic gravity well in which clear and well-expressed thoughts are drawn into orbit, accelerated centripetally and collided under not-entirely-controlled conditions to create new forms of meaning that exist only for fractions of a second before winking out of existence (or being wearily corrected on the revise desk). That would certainly explain all the sentence fragments that seem to be lying around in the copy. Not to mention all the discourse particles, y’know?

* In terms of numbers, not intellectual capacity, thank you.

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