Increasingly, as I walk around Brisbane I notice spelling errors on official public signs—like this one outside an undercover carpark in the CBD:
Or this, near a swimming pool:
These look more like typos than spelling errors; nonetheless, they made it into the public domain because nobody noticed the mistake—or somebody noticed, but by that point it was too late and they couldn’t be bothered changing the sign.
Errors such as these have become so common I tend to ignore them. But a month or so ago I was waiting at the bus stop on the corner of Musgrave Road and Upper Clifton Terrace, Red Hill, when I noticed that ‘Clifton’ was spelt with two fs on the bus-stop marker, but (correctly) with one f on the nearby street sign.
I couldn’t let that glaring inconsistency stand. Besides: not only did the bus-stop marker have twice its fair share of fs, some other bus stop might well be missing out entirely—and I don’t imagine that the Brisbane City Council has an endless supply of fs to throw around.
In an ideal world there would be some sort of 24-hour Bus-Stop Spelling and Grammar Hotline to which concerns such as these could be directed. One day, perhaps. For now, the Brisbane City Council contact centre was my first port of call.
I asked them if the BCC could see their way clear to removing one of the fs—it was entirely up to them which one—from bus stop 5a on the corner of Musgrave Road and Upper Clifton Terrace, Red Hill, and perhaps reassign it to a more deserving bus stop elsewhere in Brisbane.
The customer-service officer said she’d forward my request to Translink, Brisbane’s public-transport provider. I suspected that this might be her polite way of telling me to ‘f’ off, and that if I wanted action, I’d have to go the bus stop myself and manually erase the superfluous consonant.
I was wrong. The next time I passed the stop, there was a brand new marker; the spelling of ‘Clifton’ now matched the spelling on the street sign. It’s no exaggeration to say that the sight of that new marker restored my faith in humanity—or at least in Translink.
At the same time, I was a little disappointed that my good deed hadn’t been publicly acknowledged. I didn’t expect grand gestures; a simple inscription, somewhere on stop 5a—‘The Brisbane City Council, in association with Translink and other relevant stakeholders, extends its heartfelt gratitude to David Cohen’, etc.—would have sufficed.
But, like most editors, I remain invisible. Never mind: correct spelling is its own reward—although, as rewards go, I prefer money.
*David Cohen is a Brisbane-based writer and editor who does occasional contract work for Full Proofreading Services.