1. Sign text is not book text. Public signs are meant to convey short bursts of meaning to people either driving by or walking by (or BOTH) – someone being pulled along by a speedy Great Dane in a park is not going to have time to divine inaccuracies in a sign – I am not ashamed to admit that I understood the meaning of this sign. And if I’m not mistaken, this appears to be simply a thrown together temporary sign, cello-taped to a standard backing.

      PS -I think a better re-write of the sign would be…


    1. I like the way the first two lines read as self-contained koans:

      “Please do not leave food.”

      “Waste in the park as it is.”

  1. Their grammar is unfortunate, but their meaning is clear and perfectly appropriate. Must everything be nitpicked to a global audience? Maybe there’s something especially funny about this error, or it could be that signmakers are systematically making errors of this sort – but the size of your audience just makes me feel sorry for the poor fellow that made the minor error.

    1.  “Must everything be nitpicked to a global audience?”

      Well, I don’t know about everything, but you did end your post with two periods.

      1. After carefully considering, I have edited the comment to correct the error. I felt it was appropriate to do so, so long as I didn’t try to pretend I hadn’t.

        I was strongly tempted to end this comment with two periods, though.

    2. I saw it more as “found poetry” then anything.  Especially if you imagine it being read by William *pause*

      1.  Alas, I was enjoying this verbal joust but Godwin’s law has been invoked and the conversation must end.

        Damn, such a quick ending to an amusing post.

  2. It is two things! It is unsightly, encourages vermin, and—three! Three things! It is unsightly, encourages vermin, and promotes disease! Though technically the first is a quality possessed by food waste rather than a result of its presence, so it is one thing, and causes two other things!

    No one expects the Borough of Hackney Parks Commission!

    1.  Yeah, the sign’s at an angle and the words are straight, as if they’d been added to a picture rather than a sign.

    2. It’s an extradimensional gate to a plane of Eldritch non-euclidean grammar.  It has enveloped you, and now all your emails, all your texts, all your lolcats, even your sexts, will seem normal when sent, but will arrive with the Grammar Out of Space. You will soon hear the Shoreditch Horror chuckling (gasping? beatboxing?) from the next room.

      1. If it’s Cory’s Shoreditch Horror, you will soon be awakened by it hammering, drilling, and sawing as it renovates R’yleh into an illegal hotel.

  3. The part about promoting disease is odd. I suppose if someone were to eat discarded food that might cause problems. Or do they mean through encouraging vermin discarded food would promote diseases. I do recall something about London and the bubonic plague…

  4. It would seem to me that the poor downtrodden vermin of the world could use encouragement more than anyone. How else are they ever going to muster the will and determination to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and rise to the level of common nuisance?

  5. Whatever its errors and idiosyncrasies, it’s so much more literate than a similar sign on this side of the Atlantic. In fact, where I come from, it’d just be pictograms, I suppose.

    1. A false equivalency.

      The difference here is, that someone was paid* to produce this …

      Gem of the English language …

      whereas there are deserving professionals, unemployed and underemployed, who continue their search for scrivenly util.

      No one here is oppressing, socially stigmatising, or denying the author of this sign access to the Internet’s bountiful cornucopia.

      We are bemoaning the (lack of) government of Hackney, of which this sign is a small and easily-digested token.

      Further research reveals that this sign is a stand-in for such public, tax-funded services as:

      Litter bins;
      Litter bins pickup service;
      A little retired fellow in coveralls with a sack and pointy stick picking up litter;
      A little civic-minded fellow ” ” ” ” ” “” ;
      A swarming horde of little “retired” fellows in day-Glo coveralls with sacks and pointy sticks accompanied by a minder;

      * money ** ***

      ** tax money

      ***and incurs benefits

    1. Hey cool.  You just called Cory Doctorow both a liar and an unskilled user of Photoshop.  That makes you awesome.

  6. It’s really only a problem if you assume (both) that co-ordination structure is flat and that recursion doesn’t exist. Otherwise: [both [ (is) unsightly] and [encourages vermin and promotes disease]]. In other words, there are two things that leaving food does: (a) creates unsightlyness and (b) encourages vermin and promotes disease (presumably the disease is related to the vermin).

    P.s. @darladoon: You can use “that” to refer to people too.

  7. please do not leave food
    waste in the park as it is
    both unsightly and
    encourages vermin WHICH
    promotes disease.


    I have eaten

    the vermin

    that were in

    the public park

    and which

    you probably attracted with


    food waste.

    Forgive me

    they were delicious

    but now I feel

    really sick.

  9. I showed this to my 12-year old daughter, a notorious stickler for grammar.

    She scanned the text for a total of 5 seconds, then shrugged.

    “They said ‘please’.  Besides, people who litter are a-holes.”


  10. A clue for non-English speakers: “both” means more than one and less than three. Oops, you need to know a little English to read the clue itself.

    1. It’s a clue I’ve needed before – in Norwegian “both” is frequently used for up to three items even though it’s probably technically wrong to do so.

  11. ‘unsightly’
    ‘encourages vermin and promotes disease’
    perhaps that should be ‘encourages vermin which promote(s) disease’, (s) being optional…
    but the nested implication is valid no?
    perhaps the line
    breaks are what’s funny.

  12. I don’t understand what is wrong with this.

    The use of the word “both” actually has a specific function: to clarify they they are talking about two things (aesthetics, public health) and not three things (aesthetics, pests, health). It’s as if to say, “It is both ugly, and causes real problems.” Classifying it as two issues and not three actually makes for a stronger message.

    Personally, I’d use comma placement to drive the point home as well, but the sentence reads just fine. This is not a matter of the grammar police overreacting to a tiny flaw, it’s the grammar police overreacting to something that isn’t actually a flaw. The English language is absolutely primed to create these kinds of ambiguities, but that’s all they are.

    As for using “which” to clarify the point, I agree that it would make it more grammatically bulletproof, but it changes the meaning (although I doubt either was a particular concern for the original sign maker).

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