This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

On The Road To The: a rant.

Road sign are different from sonnets.

I mean, I've been trying to work out the precise meaning of Or bends with the remover to remove from Shakespeare's sonnet Number 116 for about...ooh, several decades.

Sometimes I think I've got a handle on it, sometimes I don't. Once or twice I've had a blinding flash of revelation - which has left me, naturally, blinded.

This doesn't matter. Part of the point of a good sonnet is to give people the chance to think.

But road signs are another matter. They have to yield up their meanings more or less instantly. Obviously the most successful road signs will leave the reader with something to think about as they wend their way (there's really a place called Limpley Stoke? In Wiltshire??) but the primary meaning should leap out.

So, anyway, the other day we were coming up to a big roundabout in a strange land. (It was Norfolk.) The authorities had helpfully marked the traffic lanes on the approach road. NOR, it said, indicating the lane for Norwich. A47, it said, indicating the lane for the...but you get the idea.

And then the next lane was emblazoned with the mysterious message: THE.



THE what? The North, the edge of the cliff, the Gates of Hell?


...but of course by then it was too late, the roundabout was upon us and we were careering round - and round - and round - and phew, that looks right, and off we go.

Ten miles down the road we realised that we were nearing the town of Thetford.

Word To Use Today: sonnet. This word comes from the Old Proven├žal sonet, a little poem, and before that from son, a song, and the Latin sonus, a sound.

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