Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

In which the author finds beauty in how people tell other people what to do.

Eternal Danger


Thanks to Paul Gorbould for this one.

It’s a plaque by the “eternal flame” in the Peace Garden outside Toronto’s City Hall. As Paul points out, it’s a safety warning “in classy, timeless brass.”

Paul goes on to say: “What I find striking is the decision to include the adjective. Is an ‘eternal’ flame more dangerous than a ‘normal’ flame? Practically speaking, it’s probably less dangerous — it has always been there and always will be. At least it’s predictable.”

Danger: There’s an Obvious Danger Here!

deep_holeThis one is fun. It points out something terribly obvious — namely that there’s a very large hole in the street, maybe 10 feet wide and 20 feet long and 12 feet deep, and then adds the strikingly obvious fact that this giant hole constitutes a danger to pedestrians.

Oh, and note not one but two layers of fence between pedestrians and the dangerous, deep hole.

Interestingly, the normative conclusion — “stay away” — is left implicit.