Saturday, August 23, 2008

Weighing in on TEAL.

So I'm hearing (thanks to Red Pen, Inc. readers MATT and DANNY) that there's some serious drama going down with the dudes who run the TEAL (Typo Eradication Advancement League) site. These are those guys who went across the country in search of grammar mistakes, fixing the mistakes as best they could. They kept a really well-written, detailed, entertaining blog about their adventures, and they and their grammar crusade attracted a hell of a lot of press and attention. Apparently their crusade and their blog have gotten them into hot water, as they have been penalized (to the tune of over 3K and a year-long ban on visiting national parks) for "defacing" a sign in a national park.

So maybe it wasn't the smartest thing in the world to use white-out and a marker to modify a sign that's part of a national landmark (and then document said actions in a blog). Perhaps they should have thought some of their actions through a little more, ie only permanently changing cheap, handwritten signs on paper and finding non-permanent means (like writing their corrections on Post-It notes) of changing more substantial, costly signs. Admittedly, these guys who are really, really smart with grammar kinda goofed up and got themselves in some trouble.

However. I strongly believe their punishment doesn't fit their crime. Over three grand in fines...for this? It's not like they were a pair of punks trolling the streets, bottles of spray paint clutched in their eager hands, and they started spray-painting obscenities everywhere. These are smart guys with excellent grammar skills and a good sense of humor, and they wanted to fix grammar mistakes. And these guys--who I'm sure didn't even have the concept "vandalize" in their minds when they were on their grammartastic cross-country journey--are now being made an example of and making national headlines because they kinda screwed up while fixing somebody else's screw-up. (Would an argument that TEAL's actions were OK because the sign's poor punctuation and egregious misspelling were already taking away from the sign's quality hold up in court? Sadly, I doubt it.)

I can't say that it was the smartest thing in the world to write on this sign in a national park, but I can sympathize with them. I'm sure that never in their wildest dreams would they have expected that somebody would get so riled up about them fixing some mistakes on a sign. I know from being a regular reader of the TEAL site that these guys often asked permission to change mistake-riddled signs and/or pointed out these mistakes to whoever was in charge of the business that owned the screwy sign. I think they're guilty of not thinking through what the consequences of some of their actions and antics might have been, and yes, technically, I suppose they're guilty of vandalism, but really. Come the fuck on. I could understand how, for instance, if they'd painted a gigantic penis on the sign, this would be an actual problem that would quite possibly offend people, but for crying out loud, they fixed some errors on the sign. Cuff 'em! Throw 'em in a jail cell, toss away the key, and make 'em read and then re-read Perez Hilton's poorly-written blog as punishment for this obviously heinous crime! *rolls eyes*

I'll end on this: I have a lot of respect for those TEAL guys, even when they don't make the smartest decisions. They came up with an interesting concept, they followed through on what must have been a time-consuming and costly project, and they wrote an entertaining blog. They dared to do something different. They got a lot of coverage from various media outlets (I admit I'm quite jealous of such attention!). They seemed to have quite the readership--many of whom, I'm pleased to report, also read Red Pen, Inc. (the TEAL guys and I linked to each other on our respective blogs). The TEAL guys have balls. Every day I sit here at my computer, in the privacy of my own home, sometimes in just a towel or *gasp!* wearing my hair up and wearing no makeup, and I blog about grammar errors myself. I don't fix them--I just mock 'em. My grammar crusade's a hell of a lot easier than theirs--I just sit here and make my snarky comments. Not to diminish what I do here (because I do work incredibly hard to make this blog the best it can be), but I don't tell someone at a local business that there's a grammar mistake on their sign; I just snap a picture of it, run off, and start making fun of it on my blog. These guys had the cojones to put themselves out there, confront those grammar mistakes (and sometimes the mistakes' creators) head-on, and actually change said mistakes. I don't have that kind of moxie, and I respect the folks that do have it, even if it gets them into trouble sometimes. And sometimes trouble's the price you pay for different, daring, and original concepts and actions.

What are your thoughts? Talk to me in the Comments section...

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Give those boys a medal!

lowlife said...

Hooray for a fair justice system!

Amanda said...

Actually, I think they got exactly what they deserved. I read through that blog several times and was always amazed that they didn't get in trouble before this. While I love the concept of what they were doing, making additions/corrections/whatever to property that isn't theres is not legal. If I, for some reason, had some screwy sign up on my house, I'd have called the police on people defacing my property even if they were trying to correct my mistakes. There are certain boundaries that have to legally be followed, and they are now paying for their mistakes. I'm actually surprised that their punishment was so light, and that no one else has come forward to complain.

Amanda said...

Haha, and in the interest of fixing my own mistake, I meant "theirs" not "theres." That's ironic.

Finchstalker said...

I applaud the spirit behind the act, but yeah, it was a bad idea in this case.

It does bother me that the $3k fine will be spent on restoring the errors, if you read between the lines. I suppose it sort of makes sense when you consider that the sign is more valuable for its history than for what it says, but it still strikes me as a bit odd.

said...

OGM! Lolzors, doze guys is vandals!

Good for them. Corrected grammar gets this gentleman to bed any day.

Becky said...

I'm against fixing mistakes unless they were written in dry-erase marker or chalk. And national parks are sacred!

Cuz_I'm_The_Mom said...

I had just found their blog and was reading about their travels when the legal troubles began. Now I can't find them anywhere. That's too bad. Guys with extensive vocabularies and a penchant for proper grammar/spelling/punctuation give me lady wood.

Charlene said...

They intentionally defaced an irreplaceable historical artifact because they were too ignorant or stupid or self-absorbedly egomaniacal to realize that the language has changed since that sign was created. They remind me of people who snidely and self-importantly correct English or Canadian bloggers who use spellings such as "colour" and "honour", except that those morons don't go out of their way to deface HISTORICAL ARTIFACTS.

I agree with you, though, that the fine they received was inappropriate. They should have been fined $100,000 and been sent to jail for at least one year. What was their next brilliant idea: defacing an original of Shakespeare's Third Folio?