Perspective and context (errors #3)

literalsign1Sometimes signs and bits of other verbiage aren’t “wrong” per se but might manifest a lack of perspective . . . like the sign shown here.

If a) the producer of the sign and b) all readers of the sign had identical perspectives, the sign would be understood in the same way.  Let’s say someone just arrived from another state, though, and had a) been in a restaurant before driving to the first airport, then b) had airport coffee and a muffin, and then c) airplane food en route.  She might have a different perspective.  How could all that food have been consumed on this particular 2nd floor? might be her knee-jerk question, upon deplaning and seeing this sign.

Dumb mental meanderings, you say.  Yeah, I know few people think as literally as I think, but I persist. . . .

Here’s another example:


This is the back of a receipt from a well-known retail store.  They “promise to attempt a return on every item purchased. . . ”  but the perspective is too narrow.  They don’t really mean what they say, of course.  They mean, within the context of items our customers no longer want, they promise to attempt returns.

It’s beneficial to ponder our personal perspectives . . . with the aim of understanding others’ perspectives better, as well as broadening our own.

Biblical and church matters should also scrutinized with regard to perspective and context.  It is when we realize the framework within which something is to be understood that we begin to communicate.


Perspective and context are more significant than the topic of mere errors in judgment on signs and receipts.  However, if you like the latter kind of thing, you might also like two previous blogs:  journalistic “shame” and the cake lady’s sign blog, after which Doug pointed out, via Facebook, that one major style guide (the AP’s) thinks she was correct.  I found another — the Chicago Manual of Style, that says I’m right.  By & large, I figure that style guides and dictionaries are all reflections of use and not rule-makers, more or less.  Plus, as Bob pointed out, it’s good to acknowledge that language changes over time….

Please share your thoughts. I read every comment.

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