along the shore

Sometimes I amuse myself interpreting things literally when I know they’re not intended that way…but still, the picky proofreader in my soul gets annoyed at traffic engineers who post signs that put the word “only” beneath a double arrow indicating two allowable directions.

That’s not that conflict-ridden…but maybe it’s one of those non-flat surfaces with reduced friction: more than once, I’ve seen ROAD CLOSED signs used in lieu of LANE CLOSED signs…but the two should not be interchangeable. Because once you’ve seen several ROAD CLOSED signs at sites where, in fact, only a lane is closed – and therefore, the road itself is passable – the likelier you are to read a ROAD CLOSED sign as referring to mere lane closure when in fact the entire road is closed. And then you’re stuck. (At least they’re not using spare BRIDGE OUT signs for this purpose. Yet.) This is the traffic engineer equivalent to yelling about about a wild, predatory canine (oh wait – I already took that verbal tic for some exercise in this post): uh, crying wolf.



Filed under langwich, traffic

3 responses to “along the shore

  1. P Proefrock

    Can you not be constrained to “only” these two choices? Not to be defending the traffic engineers – and I agree with you completely on the other points – but what, in your mind, would be appropriate for a plural exclusive other than “only”?

  2. Not sure as to the grammatical component of your question…but I’ll note that typically, lanes that clearly permit multiple options are not marked…and that markings tend to strongly imply that the option(s) presented are all the allowable options. In other words, a branching arrow indicating “either straight or left” strongly implies “no right turns.”

    And now it appears I do have my grammatical answer: “either left or straight,” etc. Interestingly, the trend is to make signs entirely graphical…but there doesn’t seem to be a sign for “only” or “exclusively”: the arrow(s) are graphical, but “only” is a word made up of letters.

    And I just now realized that that book one of my photos was in (free copy yay!) might well address that point…haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

  3. P Proefrock

    I agree that the branching arrow implies “no right turns,” but adding “only” makes it explicit. Signage is a special case, since meaning needs to be transmitted quickly and clearly.

    I took the original example to mean “you can only go straight or left from this lane.” While in words, it may be more ponderous, but graphically (or rather as a graphic plus the word ONLY), it comes across pretty quickly, and maybe even better than a “no right turns” sign would.

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