02 December, 2009
Is it a sign of the times? Just across the street from the
Anguilla House of Assembly is Her Majesty’s Prison. Strategically located, you might think. Well, so it is. The Ministers of Government and Permanent Secretaries pass by HM Prison every day. And, every day, they walk and drive alongside a sign that is posted outside the prison. Is it only me that finds it an odd sign?
“Restricted area. No trespassing without authorization”. Restricted area, I can understand. What I cannot understand is how anybody can give me authorisation to trespass. If I get permission to enter a restricted area, then, common sense alone tells me that I am not trespassing. What the designer of this sign appears to have done is to conflate the three well-known phrases, “Restricted area”, “No trespassing”, and “No admittance without authorization”. Here it is in close-up for you to appreciate it in all its glory.
While we are on the subject of illiterate public administration signs, have you noticed the one at Sandy Ground? Sandy Ground is a port of entry, where most of the island’s cargo is landed at the jetty and stored in the Customs House. The Customs House is home to Her Majesty’s Customs. The sign must have been up for some years, as it is battered and faded.
During all that time, innumerable government officers have driven past the sign. They must have seen it, and noticed that something was wrong. Did they not recognise the error? Did they not realise that the error made HM Customs into something of a laughing stock? Here is a close-up for your better appreciation.
“HMS Customs”? We know that the prefix “HMS” is associated with the sea. And, so it should be. The letters stand for Her Majesty’s Ship. They are an indication that a ship in question belongs to the British Navy. The letters “HMS” are not an acceptable enlargement of, far less an improvement on, the initials “HM”.
The persons responsible for ordering the production of these signs ought to be ashamed of themselves.
And, what about you, Ron? Just because some government officer gives you an illiterate draft, does not mean that you have to produce it just as it appears. Surely, as a professional, it is not below your dignity to call up the government Department boss and ask him or her if he or she really wants to appear to be a fool. You might point out that the risk is that people will be afraid to bring you their sign-work for fear that you are going to be the originator of illiterate signage. For your own protection you need to make that call.
You may say it is a little thing. I insist it is not. It is a sign that we live in a post-literate society. We are administered by semi-literates, er, the educationally challenged. We make a laughing stock of ourselves by allowing such persons to put pen to paper in the public service.
Do we need a new Department of government literacy?
Is that not what the school system is supposed to be?