Just ask the fine people of Cherryville who have to put up with a new highway sign that states unequivocally that North Folk Rd. is AHEAD. Well, it’s not.
North Fork Road is ahead, where it’s always been, but the promise of North Folk, or even Norfolk, Va., for that matter, being ahead is not even close to being the truth.
It just shows you that typos, even on a highway sign with only three words, one abbreviation and 16 letters, can inflict untold consequences, curses and more than a few smiles.
Luckily the folks in Cherryville and area are secure enough in their local history and governance that they aren’t adopting a new name for one of their main roads just because the provincial government said so.
Or tried to with a sign, but didn’t tell them any other way. Or just screwed up a fairly simple task, which is kind of funny but exasperating at the same time.
And apparently, this isn’t the first time the ministry of transportation failed to use its sign spellcheck feature, either that or they desperately need to hire a semi-retired former editor. (See bottom of column for contact information.)
A story in the Kelowna Capital News this summer revealed a new sign near Big White that greeted drivers with “Entering Kootney Boundry Regional District.”
Now to be charitable, I think we should acknowledge that three of the words are spelled correctly. That’s over half. And those are the words that spellcheck would catch.
To spell Kootenay and Boundary correctly you might need an atlas, or Google, or rudimentary knowledge of B.C. geography, or you know, maybe ask someone who knows.
What could they have possibly done in this instance? Guess? Not care? Couldn’t afford to buy a couple more vowels to solve the puzzle?
Quality control is obviously a huge issue to the point that one grasps for answers about the inability to get something fairly easy so wrong, at least twice, and at taxpayers’ expense.
My first guess, or conspiracy theory, your choice, is that the ministry is contracting out highway signs to a firm in Upper Mongolia, or maybe Kazakhstan, that isn’t up on the intricacies of the English language, let alone B.C. place names. Still, there still should be some kind of oversight in Victoria, and then again regionally and then again with the person actually putting the sign in the ground.
Now, I don’t want to get all high and mighty on this topic. Being in the newspaper industry most of my life, I’m well aware that typos and mistakes happen, and we’ve had more than our share, humorous and otherwise.
We did our best and were quite diligent, but stuff happens when you’re recording history on the run. I used to say getting basic things right, like spelling and the date on the front page of the paper, were crucial in establishing trust with the community.
Somehow we still got the date wrong on the front page on several occasions. However, I will point out there are thousands of words in every paper – signs, not so much.
But rather than sharing our flubs (another column), I’ll relay when the editor of the Williams Lake Tribune was so worried about alerting his readers to the upcoming time change that he mistakenly put the announcement in the paper one week too early. Oops.
However, I’m quite concerned this quality control problem with street signs is going to get worse before it gets better.
So one safety tip for all you drivers out there. If you come across an octagon-shaped, red-coloured sign emblazoned with large white letters that say – STOOP – don’t bend down, rather hit the brakes, hard.
Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of The Morning Star.