Sometimes the odd­est things just irk me.

An officious sign

This sign is present out­side of an area where var­i­ous things are loaded and unloaded in the hospital’s hall­way. Some of those things would seem very attrac­tive to cer­tain types of indi­vid­ual. The sign is there, of course, to basi­cally keep hon­est peo­ple hon­est; a ded­i­cated malfeasant wouldn’t give a good damn about the sign and would sim­ply boost what­ever he wanted, fig­ur­ing — arguably cor­rectly — that the odds of a clean escape were in his favor.

Okay, so what’s the problem?

Well, it seems that — despite the con­stant video sur­veil­lance — someone’s man­aged to steal our verb.

What is it about the control/​domination men­tal­ity that seems to be verb-​​phobic? I know about imper­a­tive form, but that tends to using an implicit sub­ject (“Freeze!” with the you under­stood), not an implicit pred­i­cate (“You!” wouldn’t make much sense, would it? John 11:35 is kind of point­less with­out the verb; what mean­ing does Jesus have with­out wept ?).

It seems to me that drop­ping cru­cial parts of speech on this sign might be a bit much, par­tic­u­larly since there are no com­mands being issued; there’s just a state­ment about the state of being of the loca­tion — which would seem to make the miss­ing verb all that more sig­nif­i­cant, since it is, after all, the focus of the mes­sage. While the sign cer­tainly gets the point across, it wouldn’t suf­fer for the pres­ence of a lit­tle is to round out the gram­mar, would it?

It can’t be argued, either, that the is was omit­ted in order to save space. Is is a tiny word. There’s plenty of room for it on this sign. Yet for some rea­son it was decided that this sign read bet­ter as a piece of bad comic-​​book monologue.*

And why is, par­tic­u­larly? Why not start ran­domly elid­ing other parts of speech? If we dropped the sub­ject, for instance, we’d end up with this under con­stant video sur­veil­lance — and bet­ter yet, we’d have room again for the is.

Or we could drop the prepo­si­tion and really con­fuse the hell out of our pos­si­ble mis­cre­ant: This is con­stant video sur­veil­lance. A post-​​modern com­ment on life, or a Kafkaesque cry of despair?

And the adjec­tive con­stant isn’t nec­es­sar­ily that pre­cise; some­times the video sur­veilling is being done by a cam­era and VTR. But a sign read­ing this area under a com­bi­na­tion of live human and auto­matic videotape-​​recording sur­veil­lance might not pack the same wallop.

Instead of hav­ing an inac­cu­rate sign with poor syn­tax and a bad atti­tude, wouldn’t it just make the most sense to never leave steal­able items alone in any area? To just have some­one actu­ally phys­i­cally there, mak­ing sure noth­ing got stolen?

Probably not — prob­a­bly some­one would sug­gest putting a video cam­era on the employee.

And then the sign would read Notice: Employees under con­stant video sur­veil­lance.

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* “Losing … strength! Too weak … too much … bad gram­mar** … Passing out…”

** As Kryptonite is to Superman, so behaves ter­ri­ble gram­mar to writers.

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