YA ANT SUPPOSE TA PARK HEREThere is something unforgettable about that line--it's not just awkward and ungrammatical, it's ideally awkward and ungrammatical. It sticks in your mind and won't let go. The same is true of a story my brother tells, about a friend of his who always ordered the same thing at the hot dog stand they patronized: "Gimme tree hoddogs, two wit kepitch, one wit not." This gets uttered at least three times a day in our house, and has pretty consistently for the past two years. And just this evening, during our family night out at the Chinese buffet, I received the following fortune: "A carrot a day, may keep cancer away."
Cancer! In my cookie!
I love the notion of a public text--the handlettered sign, the overheard cell phone conversation, the mash note found under a hedge. I've always felt that good fiction and poetry is inseparable from the rhythms, quirks, and foibles of common speech--a writer may embrace it fully, or react against it aggressively, but it's always part of the equation. The text of a book may be a secret whisper between the writer and reader, but language itself has a life of its own, out in the wild. Literature is a zoo, an awesome zoo of language, but sometimes it's just as enjoyable to stalk the beast out on the street.
I've made it something of a habit to photograph unusual or otherwise noteworthy texts in their natural environment--a few are below. Feel free to share a few specimens of your own.