17 February 2009

Does this sign really bother anyone else?

Because I drive by it nearly every damn day, and every time I think “who came up with that?”  (as always, you can click on the pic to see a larger version) 

The name of the street in question, not that you could tell from the sign (which is, in fact, my main problem with said sign), is Live Oak Plantation Road.  Now, I’m all for abbreviations.  Brevity is the soul of wit and all that (o.k., that saying is not actually about abbreviations, but you get my meaning). However, in this case I take issue because... well, just because you want a word to be shorter doesn’t mean you can just make-up the abbreviation out of thin air.  

Abbreviations have to have some sort of accepted convention or textual clue that gives the people reading the abbreviation an inkling as to what the original word was.  It works fine for things that are commonly shortened, the abbreviations we encounter everyday: road = Rd., meeting = mtg., President = Pres., birthday=Bday.  (Although, common abbreviations can be problematic as well.  Take the widely used St.  That’s street, right?  Or Saint?  What about All Saints Street in Tallahassee? That would be All St. St.? Or the adjacent Saint Francis Street, which would be St. Francis St.) Again, textual clues help us out.  The St. at the end is generally going to be street (especially if it’s on a street sign).  Likewise, you would assume St. Michael was Michael the saint, not Michael the hoodlum (although Street Michael would be an excellent name for a young delinquent al la Ponyboy).

Anyway, my point is - I can’t just decide to randomly abbreviate something.  Ok, I take that back, I can and often do do that.  But, what I can’t do is expect you to know what I’m talking about if I use a self-made abbreviation.  Say I decide that “paperwork” is too long and time consuming for my purposes and that I shall now just refer to it as “pw”.  That’s fine.  But if I then leave a note saying, “Hey, Jack, make sure you complete your pw. before you leave,” I’m not really sure that Jack will know of the correct course of action right off the bat.  Maybe he does his paperwork.  Maybe he takes a power walk.  Perhaps he plows a field.  Again, if he’s in an office and the note is on his inbox, he might be ok. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

So, back to the sign.  Plantation = PLT, huh?  Not really.  I mean first off, there isn’t really that much need in everyday life to talk about plantations, much less to abbreviate the word.  Even here in the Deep South, they just don’t really come up that often.  And context is not helpful here, as the sign is not on a plantation.  Also, I argue that anyone who didn't already know the name of this street would glance at the sign and assume it meant Place or Plaza or some other more commonly roadway-related term.  The mind does not instinctively go to “plantation.”

And yes, I understand that the reason for the abbreviation in the first place, indeed the raison d'être of all abbreviations, is space constraints.  And Plantation is a long-ish word for a street sign.  But, made up abbreviations are not the way forward.  Might I suggest a smaller font? Larger sign? Second line of text? Really...anything other than this PLT.  I just want some clarity on my signage.  Is that too much to ask?


KMS said...

I don't even live there but am now all bent out of shape about this signage, and the general lack of effort in either making a suitable abbreviation or splashing out on a few more inches of metal for the sign. Florida, DOT, ugh!

EDP said...

OK, I'm with you on this. What the hell is a "PLT?"