A sign

Hello there!

This is the second installation of “Looking at shopfront signs with a linguistic perspective” series. That is most definitely a working title.

Today’s sign is…

oufg store closed_LI

 

 

First things first:

  • this sign is boldly coloured, especially against the blue backdrop
  • there is not much writing on this sign: large title, three full sentences (of varying length), two paragraphs (excluding the title)

These formatting features mean that the sign is very easy to read. Unlike the sign on my first post in this series though, it doesn’t fluff around. I appreciate that people rarely spend time reading long paragraphs, so I understand what they are doing here. Especially as this particular shop is in a shopping centre, where people are closer together in a closed space, rather than on an open street.

Next, the text:

  • The title “STORE CLOSED” is so clear. Points for that
  • “our” and “staff & customers” is inclusive language – very “all in this together” vibey
  • “temporarily closing our store” is again very clear, and it is positive to write “temporarily”. I can’t help comparing this to the first post though, which had more imagery and a kinder feeling
  • “You can shop online…” gives us an alternative to shopping in store which is great. It is not super inviting, but this sign has a different, clearer, shorter message, so it makes sense
  •  apart from the online address, there is no contact information given. This takes away a bit of the humanness of this message
  • “Stay safe” is a kind message. But… a bit generic. It could incorporate the business, or the business slogan into its goodbye – for example, if this was a children’s toy shop, it could say something like “Stay safe and keep playing” (okay, that’s not great, but you get the idea)
  • “we will see you soon” is a more inclusive, more positive finish to the sign. It brings hope, saying that soon this pandemic will be over. Again, the use of “we” is inclusive, gives us notions of a team working there and delivering this message. The phrase “see you soon” is redolent of spoken language, so it does sound more personable and chirpy

At the bottom the shopping centre branding – not super exciting, but necessary to this business. Also adds to the professionalism of the whole ensemble.

Altogether, this sign is very different to the first one. It has a whole other “look”: professional, short, it speaks to its customers but doesn’t get sentimental over the whole situation.

Points for getting the message across, a few taken off for lack of empathy. (You may be asking yourself: why should a sign be empathetic? The answer is: business. More connection with customers, more money spent there. Also, I like a bit of fun with words, and the feeling of being cared for and valued, even if it is from a shopfront sign)

So, there we are for another day! I hope that you enjoyed this post, and are looking forward to the next!

A Linguist’s View

When I go to work (it is deemed to be an essential business – but an argument against that is for another post!) I walk in to the shopping centre.

Where once I smelt fresh bread from the bakery upstairs, I now smell hand sanitiser.

Where once I saw a centre opening up for business, people hurrying past with coffees and pastries on their way to work, I see dark shops and empty spaces.

Where once I greeted people coming to work with me, that I saw on a daily basis, there are so few of us working now.

One of my coping mechanisms is to look on the bright side of things. There have definitely been days where I have cried at work over humanity (its ignorance, its cruelty, it frailty, sometimes because I am plain scared and feeling disrespected), but now that it has been a few weeks of this virus, I am able to buoy myself up to my usual disposition.

It doesn’t solve big problems, but it certainly helps me get through the day.

So, whenever I see a sign that says that the store is closed for reasons relating to the virus, I look at it from a different perspective. A linguistic one.

edited corona sign 1

I chose to start with this sign because I like it.

As you can see, it is clearly written, it highlights the importance of its staff and clients. (There is a case of missing apostrophes there, but this post is less about that and more about the messages put across)

Although it is written to the point, it isn’t overly blunt.

  • “Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic” is definitely to the point.
  • “we have decided to temporarily close our doors”  is a softer finish to the sentence.
  • “We” and “our” are inclusive; the use of these words throughout the sign has my approval.
  • “temporarily” emphasises that this won’t be forever – not just the store’s being closed, but the pandemic, too.
  • “close our doors” suggests things going on behind the scenes, a business still functioning, and again, highlights the inclusiveness. It conjures up an image in our minds, of someone literally closing doors, ready to be opened up again soon.

The first paragraph is informative and useful while being kindly written. From a formatting perspective, this could have been written in a larger or bolder print, so as to highlight the information.

However, it does give almost equal importance to the kind (but less informative) message of the second paragraph. The ordering of the paragraphs (information prominent) makes it appropriate.

  • “We thank you for your support” – I can’t say that I have actually supported this business, but it still makes me, as a passer by, happy to read.
  • “and hope that this is all very short lived” suggests chaos. Although I know that a small, local hair salon isn’t in charge of restrictions or for slowing the spread, the suggestion of chaos is not a pleasing thing to read. However, it does emphasise that this business is part of the community, that the owners are just like you and me, and at our level. Indeed, they’re not in charge, but are doing what they can.

The third paragraph reiterates the business owners’ well wishes, kindly thoughts, and sense of being part of the community.

Although there is no great variety in the length of sentences, I appreciate the continuity throughout. It is comforting that the beat or rhythm of the sign remains the same, despite the “unprecedented time”and hoping but not knowing what will happen next.

Lastly, the sign finishes off in an obligatory way: signing off with contact details.

  • “If you need” isn’t the most inviting. I personally prefer “If you would like to contact xxx for more details, please email xxx.” This is so nitpicky of me though!
  • The sign off itself could be stronger, or this paragraph in a smaller print, to show that it isn’t really part of the kindly message of the above paragraphs.

For a sign written on a shop front, I usually prefer something shorter and snappier. But, the messages have such good intentions behind them, and it isn’t like a whole crowd will be standing around, squeezing together for a better view of it. We have leisure to read these signs on shopfronts, right now. Most of the time, seeing a piece of paper in a shop window means “I’m closed”. The other stuff is fluff, but I like it.

And there we have it!

I haven’t done an analysis like this for aaaaages, but this is, oddly enough, something that is helping me deal with this whole Corona virus issue. At school I never would have written “I like it” as part of an analysis, but it’s been a while since I left, and I am writing this as a blog. If you judge me on it, it doesn’t make too much of a difference to me!

But still, let me know your thoughts on this or any other signs – there are quite a few around! Or, let me know any weird ways you have to cope with the stuff life throws at us.

I’ll get some more done, but I enjoyed this one because it was, overall, written well and with consideration.

Alternative uses & where to find them

There is a great method to finding out how you can cut down on waste: have a look in your bin, and see what is taking up space.

At work, I am often on the lookout for things that don’t have to be thrown in the bin. Bread tags is one of those things. At the end of the day, bread gets thrown away, complete with plastic bags and bread tags.

Having to waste so much good stuff is one the hardest parts of my job. I’m sure I don’t have to explain why. And it would be too long to fit in with this post. But, let’s list some of the reasons quickly in alphabetical (my favourite) order:

  • I love bread – it has so much meaning as a food of real sustenance
  • it goes to landfill
  • it’s money thrown in the bin
  • people have worked hard to make that bread
  • there are people in need

That would indeed need a whole post dedicated to it. Multiple posts. So many.

But, before I get irrevocably sidetracked by my thoughts, let me jump back on the main track and say: there are some little things that I do, and that we all can.

Bread tags

second use
Although this says “Second use”, I would love it to say “Second, third, fourth, and never ending uses are best for a circular economy” – but, unfortunately, I don’t have enough bread tags for such a snappy slogan.

I collect the bread tags from the bread before it goes in the bin and taken to unknown regions of the store and back rooms, stow them in my pocket in bring them home. I then send them on to Aussie Bread Tags for Wheelchairs – you can check them out at their Facebook page under that name, or at their website. Their Facebook page tells a bit of their story:

Bread Tags for Wheelchairs was started in South Africa in 2006 by Mary Honeybun. It is a community program where individuals and organisations collect bread tags, which are sold to recyclers. The money raised pays for wheelchairs for the less fortunate which are purchased through a local pharmacy. Currently about 500kg of bread tags are collected a month in South Africa, funding 2-3 wheelchairs.

How amazing is that?! This iddy biddy bits of plastic aren’t what we want getting broken up and getting out into the world, but some people are absolute geniuses and come up with a plan to make use of these things.

Personally, I don’t buy bread with bread tags, but if I can make a bit of a difference through work, then I will happily do it. I use a couple of old rice bags to buy my bread. It gets me a discount at some places too, so that’s a nice little win for me too.

Bottle tops

Something that I do buy in plastic is milk. I try to make my own almond milk to cut down on it, and am on the lookout for milk in glass bottles. Note: I want to find it locally so I don’t have to travel far, and that isn’t too expensive. It’s a bit hard, so I do what I can.

The other day at work I saw someone taking all of the bottle tops of plastic bottles and putting them in a container.

When I asked why he was doing that, he said that someone in another department collects them for her niece, who collects them for school, which sends them to Cabrini Hospital, which makes artificial limbs from the plastic.

This is a very heartwarming, informative article about the effect of introducing 3D printing development to the medical world. Recommend.

This news article is more specifically about Cabrini Hospital, to which I luckily live quite close. Sadly, I can’t recommend something like this for everyone, as I like to find things that are close to me.

Finding your way

But, if you want to find donation points near you, or different services to help you with diverting waste from landfill, I recommend following a few different pages on social media. Soon, in the scary way that the Internet has, more and more pages, articles, events, activities, etc., will be filtered through to you. Although the Internet can be a little scary, taking advantage of it is easy.

The Aussie Bread Tags for Wheelchairs page  is one of the pages that suddenly popped up as I scrolled through. So I have found that it definitely works.

But also, having conversations in real life! I found out about the bottle tops by just being a bit curious, and talking. I am not recommending we all stay glued to our screens to find out about diverting waste – or anything that interests you! – but to start and take part in conversations about your passion.

Donating

I remember one particular assembly from High School more than any other.

During this assembly, the school principal talked about the Bible teaching us not to be a show off (basically). It says:

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.”

So, to be modest in what you do and don’t show off about it. I agree with that – don’t trumpet your own achievements.

At the end of the speech, the principal asked us to then take a texta and write the item that we would be giving up for Lent on a big sheet at the back of the gym.

I still don’t understand how that could have made sense: don’t crow; now, go and write your good deed down for all to read. (I wrote down ‘Facebook’ and heard someone who was leaving say it was a good idea; a few weeks later I decided to use Facebook again because I’m not Catholic)

True, we didn’t put our names on it, but it still seems odd to me. Perhaps the fact that it could inspire someone else to do something makes it a bit better.

I am holding onto that thought – the thought of others taking inspiration, or even just enjoying seeing a good deed done – as I make this post today. I want to share a couple of things – I know that these have given me joy, so sharing them with you ought to spread some joy… I hope!

Donation idea no. 1

In December I was finally able to get my hair cut and donated. After quite a long time growing it out, and spending so much time reading up about it, I measured it and found it was long enough to donate*.

donatedmyhair

Here I am, looking and feeling very happy – so good to have got that mane off my neck in the Summer heat.

I had my hair cut at Earth to Betty in Ascot Vale, who donated it (yes – they donated it, meaning that I didn’t have to package or mail the ponytail) to Sustainable Salons. Sustainable Salons was my choice of donating organisation, because, although I spent so long getting it, well, long, I wanted to make sure it would be accepted. Sustainable Salons accepts hair just 20 cm long – although 36 cm at least is best.

Hair can not be either dyed or chemically processed. So, it is quite a commitment. It was fun though, and I am so glad I did it. Having my neck bare is a real treat. Seeing my reflection for the first few weeks and being surprised by what I saw is very refreshing.

If you are after a goal, or a change, I say: donate your hair. It is so much flippin’ fun.

*Reading about growing my hair, following blogs like hair buddha and the methods for growing hair can turn into a weird hobby. This is a warning!

Donation idea no. 2

Something else you can donate is a little less fun – but the knowledge of having done so is so very rewarding.

This something is donating blood or plasma.

It was a quiet happiness that I felt when I saw this in my email inbox this morning:

supercharged

As the email points out, not everyone can donate. My partner, for example, isn’t able to, so there is no way that I would ever pressure him to do so.

But since I can and don’t mind the process, I do. The words sent in this email made me happy to be a part of it. If you’re willing to give it a go, and are able to, I recommend visiting a Lifeblood (or your local equivalent).

If you need more than the knowledge of a good deed done, then here is the pièce de résistance:

You can read while you donate.

It’s amazing.

Waste not, want not

This post is called “Less waste, less want” – for anyone that doesn’t donate blood or hair or any other things, please don’t think I’m calling you a wastrel! I love the saying, and hey, not everyone can spare their hair or blood. I wouldn’t tell someone who owned one shirt to donate it to an op shop. That would be…bizarre.

This post is just to describe the happy feeling I get from donating. Honestly, I rarely donate clothes because I wear them until they can be worn no more, and would be unfit to donate. Since I can donate something, I am happy to know it’s getting a second life with someone who needs it more than I. I want to share what I can do, and hope to bring a smile to someone’s face.

And that’s it for today!

Goodbye

Post 1.

This is me saying goodbye.

For what I hope is my last year in retail – I am so ready to branch out – I want to record the good, the bad, and the damn ugly.

I write this on the fifth of January. I have worked the third and fourth, so my resolution of writing after each shift is not super successful. No time like the present, though.

On the third nothing very exciting happened.

I walked to work, despite the smoky haze that permeated Melbourne’s suburbs. The bushfires in Gippsland sent smoke – like a call for people’s compassion.

As I walked into the shopping centre, I heard  lady ramble to her (I presume) husband: “Oh, it’s a smoky, isn’t it?” As though commenting on any other weather. Whereas it’s really not. It’s terrible.

I went upstairs to my locker and got myself organised. That means

  • name badge
  • drink bottles (I always take two so I have an ample supply of filtered water),
  • hat
  • apron
  • a bunch of stuff in the cavernous apron pocket (the pockets on the apron are a bonus of work here)
  • patent leather work shoes (they’re shiny and therefore pretty, but the fact that the soles are cracking is point in their disfavour)

Excellent. Prepared.

I always go to the toilet before the shift starts – whether or not I actually need to. It will be a while before I get the chance to do so again, and it is such a long walk from the shop floor to the staff breakroom and toilets from the bakery.

Down I go again. Three flights of stairs. Clock on. Through the main store. Into the food area.

I was on closing shift.  I got in at 11 and worked through the lunch rush, and into the evening.

Nothing remarkable happened during the shift.

That was good because I felt worried about fires, but also my baby niece and her mother, my sister, who were still getting used to the baby being out in the world.

A world of smoke and fire, while I earned my daily bread.

Sustaining conversations

I’m not usually one to talk to people during my work break. As I have mentioned before (and have posts dedicated towards this subject), I like to read during my breaks.

Every so often, though, there comes a time when I am not in the middle of a beautiful, wonderful book, but am just sitting, enjoying lunch, scrolling through some screen-time, enjoying the quietude.

I was enjoying a reprieve from work the in this way a few days ago. I saw that someone was sharing my seat. I glanced up and smiled.

I want to say that I smile because it’s an automatic reaction due to my time in customer service. It might be, but I am honestly more inclined to think it’s just what I do. I say hello to random strangers when I walk down the street. And yeah, a lot of the time I get surprised looks in return – but I also get a smile back.

Anyway – this person, sharing my seat, saw me smile and returned one. He glanced down at his bag of glass containers and said “My wife’s decided to go all ‘no-waste’, so we’ve stocked up on containers.”

To be completely honest, I could have said my thoughts: “Well, sir, you can just use what you’ve already got at home.”

But, hey – maybe they didn’t have enough useful size containers. Maybe they wanted a set dedicated to bulk, zero waste shopping. It’s not for me to know, and it’s none of my business.

Since he had started the conversation of zero waste, I as glad to join in – in a nice, non-snarky way. Because it is lovely to see someone else embarking on this journey. Especially when they are supported by their partner.

His wife came to join him from another shop, and she enthusiastically told me about their efforts to go zero waste. I loved her energy, and shared something that I have found that works.

“If you’re wanting to go into the bathroom as well as the kitchen, bicarb soda for shampoo works so well!”

I told her how to use it (recipe below), and she seemed grateful and interested. It was great to see how we connected over it. A short connection, but a helpful one for both of us: she knows a good shampoo substitute option, and her positive, venturesome attitude was contagious.

Because while I know that every bulk shop I do, every day I walk to work, every time I use my keep cup, etc., is helpful, to connect with someone else making similar efforts, with the same passion, is helpful to me. It really buoys me up.

I can’t recommend chatting up every stranger you see – you’d be way too busy, and it kind of goes against what I learned in primary school about safety…. but, don’t be afraid of a connection. Don’t waste the chance!

BICARB SHAMPOO

Ingredients:

1 tsp bicarb soda

(Yep, that’s it)

Method:

Shake bicarb soda with water in a jar or container with a good, tight lid.

In the shower, rinse your hair.

Pour the bicarb and water mix over your hair, moving it when you need to to get it all over.

Massage around, leave in for a few minutes before rinsing it off.

Ad voila, there you have it. My hair has not felt this clean with other shampoo options that I have tried. The next day (I wash my hair at night) it is super soft and I love running my hands through it.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and have fun trying it out!

What Happens in the Octagon Room

Have you ever been torn away from the love of your life, right in the middle of a fond embrace? Reaching for each other still, wanting the next moment to happen if only you could be in their arms.

This happens to me every single day.

By which I mean, I am torn away from my book, right in the middle of a chapter, reaching for the next page, wanting to know what happens. If only I could have the book in my hold once again, instead of having to back to work at the end of my lunch break.

I have recently been reading Persuasion by Jane Austen.

I first read this, and re-read this a hundred time over, when I was studying it for Literature in Year 12.

Reading it so many times was, I find now, a mistake. Instead of letting it settle in, and basking in the joy of reading Jane Austen, I tried to hurry through and force my understanding of it.

Added to this, I find that 18 or 19 years old, as many Year 12s are, are often unqualified for really, truly understanding the matters of the heart and world. Reading Blake, Shakespeare, Austen, and many other authors, is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy while at school – but I can’t help thinking that many of us are too young to fully appreciate it.

And, when a teacher tells the classtheir opinion of it first, and tells everyone their understanding as though it should be everybody’s, it can be a bit overpowering. I was forever following my teacher’s  words while I read, rather than leading with my own.

I got so sick of Persuasion! Reading it too many times, with not enough understanding – and the feeling that I should be enjoying it, because, hey, it’s Jane Austen – made me very unappreciative of the book.

Fast forward seven years later, and I willed myself to take the book off the shelf again.

And this time, I am loving it!

Tearing myself away from it at the end of every lunch break is a real challenge. I can’t wait to get back to it.

A few days ago I read a particular scene, set in the Octagon Room.

Now – the words “Octagon Room” really tickle my fancy. It sounds very tall, lots of corners, a fireplace for every wall, and very elegant – that kind of forceful, oppressive elegance, that Jane Austen hated. Although I know that Persuasion is set in Regency times, I can picture the Octagon Room scene with a very Gatsby/Art Deco vibe.

I love how, in this scene, Anne once again takes charge. While there is so much obsession over who is the head of the family, Anne steps forward and shows the grace, politeness, and friendliness, that the ‘more important’ members of the family (Sir Walter, Elizabeth, Mary, even Mr Elliot) either do not, or can not show.

While I see the room with sharp corners, the tall and elegant Elizabeth and Sir Walter blending in with all the finery, Anne stands out. Her colours and manner are softer, and she actively steps forward.

When Anne needs to, she really can take charge and mend matters. Her gentle manner and modesty may make it difficult for her to do so, but she perseveres – her personality makes her efforts all the more heart-felt and sincere. It surely makes a difference to Captain Wentworth, to hear and see her sincerity and feelings towards him.

I wish that I could have appreciated this when I was studying the book, but I am so glad that I do now. Except that for the fact that it makes going back to work so hard.

But after the “pain [of leaving] is over, the remembrance of it becomes a pleasure.”