Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slow Children At Play

For my first exploration in meaning, I have chosen a fairly common street sign, and one with obvious discrepancies in meaning, mostly for initial illustrative purposes - the sign that reads
"Slow // Children // At Play."

Now obviously, I realize that by putting the language of the sign into typescript, I have already begun altering its meaning because it no longer exists in its previous visual state.

Among the casualties of this occurrence are: the yellow background, the border, and of course the running stick figure (a tragedy in its own right). This particular running stick figure also has its own strange embellishments which make its loss that much more poignant.

Yet, from a less visual and more linguistic perspective, the loss of the capital letters in my rendition is perhaps the most direct impact of my disturbance of the language from its natural habitat. Yet, I felt that keeping the entire phrase in caps. would also alter the meaning too significantly, since the phrase would appear to be screaming "SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY!" (exclamation point added for dramatic effect), and this would no doubt disturb our natural adherence to meaning. So, for the most unadulterated rendition of meaning, I have decided to refer the phrase with simple caps. at the beginning of each letter: "Slow Children At Play."

Now with the logistics of the phrase out of the way we can proceed with our interpolation.

Clearly, the purpose of the sign is to signal drivers to be aware and drive slowly as there may be neighborhood children about, playing, running and whatnot. In this interpretation, "Slow" is an imperative (although it is clearly missing a period), and "children at play" is a warning (although, again, it has the issue of periods and the larger grammatical issue of fragmentation as this phrase is missing a verb). Despite the obvious grammatical issues, I am sure that the repetition of this phrase in its familiar arrangement does serve the purpose of slowing drivers.

However, as many of you have no doubt already interpolated, the phrase could be reinterpreted with "slow" as an adjective referring to "children" if taken slightly out of its context. And while the phrase would not, then, slow drivers, it would then serve to alert them to the "special" presence of children (albeit insensitively).

And while this is a fine interpolation, it still could make better use of the words "at" and "play," which originally could be seen as a preposition and noun respectively - "at play." However, when "play" is seen as a verb and "at" as a noun. "At" becomes the object of the special children's' play - they are at-playing, or themselves playing with "at."

And in this sense, they themselves become a certain type of interpolator.

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