Monday, October 18, 2010

First, second and third person (5) – road signs

First, second and third person are all used on road signs. Here are some examples:

First person

Most first-person road signs are ceremonial:

[We] Welcome [You] to New Hampshire

Second person

Most second-person road signs are in the imperative mood:

[You] Stop [Here]

[You Drive] Slow[ly]

Sometimes the second person is tricky. For example, consider this sign, which I saw years ago at a turnpike toll plaza:

[You] Use All Lanes

The person at the Turnpike Authority who wrote that copy was really talking to himself (lack of empathy), saying, “We hope that drivers approaching this toll plaza will help relieve congestion by (collectively) spreading out and using all lanes.”

But each driver is an individual. As he reads the sign, he thinks, “I can’t use all lanes – I can use only one lane. And by the way, why don’t they tell me the one thing I do want to know: which lane am I supposed to use?

The sign should, of course, have said:

[You] Use Any Lane

Third person

Most third-person road signs state routine facts:

[The] Speed Limit [Here is] 50 [Miles per Hour]

But sometimes they state unusual facts:

[A] Duck Crossing [Lies Ahead]

Or even arcane facts:

Road Ends in Water

The Takeaway: Happy motoring!

See disclaimer.

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