Aug 26, 2008, 07:56AM

Grammar Vigilantes

Earlier this year two Ivy League educated friends set off on a mission to fix public grammar. Armed with various whiteouts, markers, and paints, they travelled across the country correcting misplaced apostrophes and referents on government and public signs. Everything was going fine until they defaced an historic sign at the Grand Canyon. They're now barred from national parks for a year and must pay a $3,000 fine.

Two self-anointed "grammar vigilantes" who toured the nation removing typos from public signs have been banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon.

According to court records, Deck and Herson toured the United States from March to May, wiping out errors on government and private signs. On March 28, while at Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim, they used a white-out product and a permanent marker to deface a sign painted more than 60 years ago by artist Mary Colter. The sign, a National Historic Landmark, was considered unique and irreplaceable, according to Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix.

Deck's diary account of the Grand Canyon incident was submitted as evidence in court. It says the two men climbed Desert View Watchtower while on holiday from their typo-enforcement duties "and discovered a hand-rendered sign inside that, I regret to report, had a few errors. I know today was supposed to be my day off from typo-hunting, but if I may be permitted to quote that most revered of android law enforcers, Inspector Gadget, 'Always on duty!' I can't shut it off. . . . Will we never be free from the shackles of apostrophic misunderstanding, even in a place surrounded by natural beauty?"

  • Perhaps the vigilantes take the point a bit too far, but I am absolutely with them in spirit. It boggles my mind that American children graduate from our public school system without a mastery of English grammar. I don't think that the vigilante approach is the most productive way to spread knowledge, but their outraged is not misplaced.

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  • In complete agreement with mahnu. Maybe it's considered persnickety to complain about grammatical mistakes, but what does it say about the U.S. government when typos aren't corrected on public signs? The book industry, to say nothing of schools, is bad enough. I wish these guys luck in their fight.

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