December 31, 2002
A Dangerous Ambiguity

If you leave Manhattan by the George Washington Bridge and head for the New Jersey Turnpike, you soon pass a sign with this message:

Slow Down
Get Ticket

Grammatically, this could easily be taken as an implied condition, like this common slogan:

Use a Gun
Go to Jail.

I wonder how many drivers have misread the highway sign and decided not to slow down for fear of a traffic ticket.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at December 31, 2002 09:15 PM

Happy new year!

Posted by: Anna on December 31, 2002 09:33 PM

There should be either an "or" or an "and" connecting the two clauses to remove the ambiguity. Without the connector, I would interpret it as an implied "and", but I very much doubt the highway officials actually meant that.

Posted by: markm on January 1, 2003 07:38 AM

I suppose this is testament to my own stupidity, but, frankly, on my first reading of "Slow down Get ticket" I did indeed see it as a warning to keep my speed up (imagining myself driving past it). Makes me wonder how many hapless motorists out there have interpreted those words in like manner.

Posted by: MarkT on January 5, 2003 01:33 PM