Quad talk: ‘I unscrewed the offending items and threw them’
5:40pm Friday 22nd March 2013 in News
William Poole on why signs really do get his juices going
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the recent controversy over the Royal Institution is its new abbreviated name.
No longer the ‘RI’ but the ‘Ri’, presumably to rhyme with ‘pee’. The humiliation!
Why do people — or rather what kind of people — think that this simpering gesture to pseudo-accessibility is going to make any difference to the status of that institution?
Lower case letters are getting extremely Upper these days. It’s endemic in the vowels, especially the ‘i’s and the ‘e’s, but soon it won’t just be iPhones and eBooks, but aa batteries, oMG!, uGH! and perhaps even yFrontz.
This irritant works hand-in-glove with the infantilisation of shop signs, especially if targeted at those peski studentz with 2 much ca$h and not enough Senztm to realise that they are being conned like the foolz they R (‘foolz they R’ is a great shop name).
There’s one in the Covered Market called ‘Moo Moo’ which makes me bark in despair as I pass by its kiddytastic primary colours. Indeed, there isn’t a coffee shop in the place that doesn’t have its walls bescrawled with lower-case ickle-tickle anecdotes about coffee beans, although not why it costs nigh on three quid to crush them into some hot water.
A related crime is the misspelt shop name, real funni. I see the Covered Market now has one called ‘Sushee’. I just about spat a kidney.
You can tell that signs in general get my juices going. My old flat in college was festooned with signs concerning FIRE, so many that I’d burn to death if I paused to read them in an emergency egress.
There was one door in the middle of the flat: it was marked ‘Fire Door’. There was one door out of the flat: it was marked ‘Fire Exit’. There was one flight of stairs going down: an arrow at the top helpfully pointed … down. This was all such an affront to domestic dignity that I unscrewed the offending items and threw them over the balcony.
Signs in our streets offer their own charms and horrors too. The only road sign that can never be rendered politically correct is the one for old people, although I am surprised that the man and the woman in their connected stoop have not been piously switched.
Central Oxford has recently suffered a War of the Worlds-style invasion of those tall black shiny signs, covered in Useful Information. The Martians tried to land one in New College Lane, but I note with joy that it has disappeared; I had been darkly fantasising about my chances of cutting it down by night with my pocket laser axe.
My favourite, however, is a quite common temporary traffic sign, of which an example still stands in one of the back streets between Cowley and Iffley Roads, just before where an old girlfriend lived when I was an undergraduate. I remember bumping into it on the way to see her one evening.
‘New Priorities Ahead’, it warned. Indeed, I reflected.