Look at the picture above. We have a street corner in suburban Evanston. There are three trees along one side of the road, some bushes, a bit of grass, a drinking fountain, two benches and a boulder with some kind of plaque affixed.
Would you say this amounted to a park?
Well, there is no need to ponder this any further, because if you look even more closely – no, let me help you, here is another image –
…there is a helpful sign on which you may make out the words ‘Harper Garden Park’. You are now in no doubt as to the status of this greenish corner.
Over-signage is an American affliction, it seems to me, and one that sits ill with the vague, muddy, well-I’m-not-sure shiftiness of the British worldview.
You can have signs that tell you what to do: for many months I found the ubiquitous ‘pay to park’ sign amusing for reasons that even I couldn’t entirely articulate. (Something to do with it looking like an advertisement of a thrilling opportunity for consumer spending.) Still, it brightened my day.
And some injunctions are quite a bit stranger (if sound):
But the ones I like best are the simply descriptive. The endless naming of every half acre of green space…
The inadvertent display of the national oil enthusiasm in the guise of a warning…
And the alarm caused by any deviation from the grid system.
(Thanks to my mother-in-law whose visit last year gave me the idea for this post.)