You’ll have seen, I imagine, the story about the library sign at Kirkcaldy Galleries. It said “libary”.
The story, and a rather embarrassing photo, was in Wednesday’s Courier. I do not suspect for a second this was the fault of anyone within the library. In my experience librarians are well-read, careful, grammatically skilled people. I reckon this was an error by a sign writer.
But it does reinforce one of my long-held beliefs.
I am about to be blatantly ageist here so you can “cancel” me if you like, although you’d have to explain what “being cancelled” means. Then explain how I would notice. Then explain why I might give two hoots.
My ageist statement is: I bet that mistake was made by a younger person.
I’ll explain why I think this. It is because (again my opinion) young people haven’t been given as good an education in basic English as we who went to school 50 years ago. But, more importantly, they aren’t careful enough to properly check their work. And don’t know how to do that.
Here’s an old trick. If you are tasked with writing a sign, a headline, or anything vitally important, you of course read it through several times. But then read it in a different way. Sometimes your brain runs ahead of your eye and you start thinking about the meaning of the statement rather than the words. So read the words in reverse order, thinking about whether each is spelled correctly rather than their meaning.
The person who, several decades ago, passed that nugget on to me was a grizzled veteran. He had worked in a newspaper Readers Department for decades and possessed vast experience of making sure type was absolutely correct.
Today, in the newspaper industry and many workplaces, older staff who are fantastic at their jobs, who have an invaluable store of experience, who have seen everything from disaster to great triumph, are not properly valued.
Employers want young people. They think young equals new ideas, a fresh approach, dynamism, modernism, and innovation.
Maybe so. Maybe not.
But one thing is sure. Along the way those kids will come up against something they haven’t seen before. Something they don’t have any experience of. A once-every-25-years emergency or pitfall. And they won’t know what to make of it.
I’m sure they’ll muddle through. They’ll find their way. But an old head who had seen it all before would already know what to do, would guide them past a lot of mis-steps, and save a lot of money on the likes of a sign that says “libary”.
Word of the week
A statement that is established, accepted or self-evidently true. EG: “It’s one of Einstein’s axioms: wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org