Spanking Time

Back when I were a lad — this would have been just after they discovered the wheel — it was common practice for a teacher to smack your hand with a ruler each time you made a mistake in your grammar.

[pause to allow Millennial snowflakes to recover from this tale of unspeakable brutality]

So I’d like to find the person who did the copy for this sign, and whack their grubby hand three times:

The first transgression is easy:  their  for they’re  — or to be an even bigger stickler for form (and I am), “they are” because an apostrophe on a sign is a big no-no.  That said, I’ve pretty much given up on complaining about the “their” / “they’re” / “there” mistake because most people nowadays are fucking illiterate and are either too uneducated or too lazy — both are inexcusable — to bother with correct grammar.

Ditto the incorrect use of the word they for “their privacy” in the sign-off statement.   Without bothering to check, I’ll take an educated guess that the copywriter is Black because this grammar is right out of Ebonics 101.  (I may be wrong, but I doubt it.)

The third  transgression on the sign, however, is one that drives me absolutely crazy, and if offered a ruler and the offending copywriter’s hand, I would instead deliver a resounding smack to the side of the fool’s head with my open hand.

Folks, this isn’t difficult.  If you want to make sure of something (e.g. customers’ privacy as in the above), that is to “ENsure”.  If you’re going to “INsure” something, you need to call Liberty Mutual and take out a policy.  So unless an INsurance company is going to pay out money each time Wally World breaches someone’s privacy, the correct word is “ENSURE”.

And speaking of Wally World:  whoever hired the moron who wrote the copy for this sign also needs not a smack on the hand but an almighty kick in the balls.  I know that WalMart generally feeds out the bottom of the staffing barrel because they’re too stingy to pay decent wages, but that doesn’t excuse this.  Nothing can.

FFS, I need to stop reading so early in the morning:  it’s barely light outside and I need a bloody gin & tonic already.


  1. I caught ‘Associate will you call…’ and the ‘they’re/ their’ but missed ‘ensure’. Funny, the things we see and the ones we miss.

  2. Sorry, Kim, I have to rap your knuckles for allowing a plural pronoun where a singular one is needed. “They are” is not acceptable to me. In fact the pronoun could have been elided entirely as in: An associate will call you when ready.
    This whacked me between the eyes one frosty morning in basic training nearly 50 years ago when the drill sergeant said, “Everybody fall out and get their rifle from the armory.” My brain went, “Wait a minute. Do you mean that we’re going to have to share one?”

    1. JLW,
      Sorry, but you’re incorrect. It’s okay to use the plural pronoun to avoid using the male / female one (e.g. in this case, when you don’t know whether a man or woman will answer the call).
      I don’t agree with it in every case, but it is grammatically correct here.

      1. Kim, have you gone all PC on us? It’s he/him when the object is singular and the sex is mixed or indeterminate.
        Sorry, Pal, that’s the way I learned it on my mother’s knee and how Black Bart, my eighth grade English teacher, taught me.
        And as in my example above it’s pretty simple to rewrite the sentence to avoid all that.

    2. Agreed. Sorry Kim, but the singular “they” is an abomination in the eyes of God and man. I don’t care if Shakespeare used it. It’s become an excuse in these decadent days to expunge all references to men from the public sphere. Thus I delight in using the neutral “he” when referring to a generic individual of unknown sex (don’t get me started on “gender”) because it’s both correct AND it “triggers” the snowflakes. Win-win!

      That said, there are plenty of grammatically legitimate ways to construct sentences which avoid the third-person pronoun altogether (or just pluralize the subject…”Associates” would’ve avoided the pronoun issue altogether). Pity people are too stupid, and miseducated, nowadays to write such. 🙁

  3. I think it is probably worse than it appears with auto-correct and that word suggestion thing some younger people have no idea how to construct a sentence or use the right word with the right spelling. Or it might be English as a distant second language for the person doing the sign composition.

  4. Just reading “Associate will you call when their (sic) ready” makes my skin crawl.

    I know that there is an incredible amount of diversity (heh) in human cognitive ability, but you’d think that someone higher up the chain would have caught this.

    We are sinking more and more into Idiocracy.

  5. A couple of points:

    During a time when I was involuntarily unemployed, I got so desperate I applied at Walmart online. Their automated application process rejected me and told me I couldn’t re-apply for 6 months. I have degrees from 2 different well-respected state universities.

    I shop regularly at Walmart with my girlfriend. I noticed one day that the only English being spoken in the store was between the two of us. I overheard conversations in Hindi, Mandarin, Spanish, and some Middle-Eastern language.

    I grew up in America. I would like to live there again.

  6. Years ago, a friend of mine owned a tobacco store. The store was close to the local high school and was a favorite place for seniors over the age of 18 to apply for summer jobs. All applicants were required to take a standard intelligence test and have a passing score of 65 or higher. The test covered very basic knowledge of English composition, spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, math, and geography. According to my friend, less than half of the graduates could pass the test. I took the test just for the fun of it and scored a 92. The test was not hard.

    (sigh) Another crop of fast food workers hits the street.

  7. It’s all a matter of keyboards being too expensive, and thus reducing the profitability of the devices they’re part of. It’s only the ageist/racist/classist minuscularity that insists on differentiating the spelling of words that sound alike. Well, fuck dat. Once the school system corrects these notions, we can move onward toward universal voice input for text an everthan gun look a same like it soun, ainat rite.

  8. Don’t forget “Associate will you call”. I don’t think that’s the Queen’s English either. 🙂

  9. Another one or two two swats of the ruler: I would have written the top line in either all-caps or small-caps—or else only the P in please, since neither “wait” nor “here” are proper nouns. If the latter, I would add a period since “Please wait here” is technically a sentence.

  10. Considering the *spit* diversity *spit* seen/heard in Walmart and our betters’ desires, the sign needs to be upgraded to a digitized screen with a number pad and message:
    Press 1 for English
    Press 2 for Central American
    Press 3 for Ebonics
    Press 4 for Millennialese
    …etc. with the appropriate message following.
    We obviously have a programming error giving us a mix of Millennialese and Ebonics.

  11. This sort of mangled English is nearly all I see on the web in blog and article comments. Some of it is simply people writing too fast, and not bothering to check their composition before submitting. Some is from bad schooling, and some is EaSL people, I’m guessing. America long ago lost the drive for competence, it seems. School teachers here are mostly useless, for a number of reasons, so a lack of real standards is the result.

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