Drive carefully when wet

A traffic signboard in Cape Town, South Africa, says:

Drive carefully when wet

Does that make you roll on the floor laughing? Then you just might be technical writer material 🙂

Two happenings this week made me think along these lines.

Firstly, a couple of people asked me about technical writing, why it’s fun (i.e. how can it possibly be fun), and what sort of (odd) people enjoy it.

Secondly, someone was raving about Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves, bringing back my own fond memories of the book. It’s all about the importance of punctuation and how we’d be a far sorrier species without the judicious insertion of a comma here and there.

It’d be really interesting to know how many technical writers are also ensnared by every passing bit of wordplay. Believe it or not, there are some people who would pass by the ‘when wet’ traffic sign without a giggle. And there are even some who wouldn’t know what to do with a semicolon if it came up behind them in a dark alley.

What about crossword puzzles: I wonder how many technical writers are also avid cruciverbalists? I’m not, but a colleague of mine is an expert. Here’s a tantaliser for you. This is a picture of an insert I found with my new curtains from Lincraft:

Slubs and knubs
Does that send you racing for your dictionary? Or even better, do you already know what slubs and knubs are?

Here’s a riddle:

Why was 6 afraid of 7?

Because 7 8 9.

Do you think that’s very cute or does it leave you cold?

And here’s something my whimsical English lecturer many years ago asked the class. It stuck like superglue in my head, and I wonder how many others of that year still remember it:

How do you explain to non-English speakers that we chop a tree down and then proceed to chop it up?

If you’ve got this far in this blog post, you’re tickled by this sort of thing too. I’ll leave you with a puzzle. How would you use punctuation and capitalisation to make sense of the following sequence of words?

Jack where John had had had had had had had had had had had the teacher’s approval

I’ll post the answer next week, unless someone beats me to it.


About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 13 October 2007, in humour, language, technical writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Jack, where John had had ‘had had “had had”‘, had had ‘had “had”‘, had had the teacher’s approval. ?

    Oy, this is too hard!

  2. “Drive carefully when wet”

    As a wordsmith, you undoubtedly thought that this was funny because it envisages somebody driving while wet.

    As a computationist, I, of course, wondered how these people should drive when it is not wet (or when THEY are not wet). Does it mean that, in the absence of wetness, they should not drive carefully?

    It reminds me of those posters:


    Does this mean (NO SMOKING) AND (EATING OR DRINKING), which means that it is OK to eat, just not while smoking?

    Or does it mean NO (SMOKING OR EATING OR DRINKING), which is a bit more restrictive?

    I always feel like adding a small piece of graffiti, so that I can watch people acting confusedly after reading “NO SMOKING, EATING XOR DRINKING”.

    (For those without a logical background, see:

  3. Nanako Tachibana-Brophy

    Jack, where John had had “Had Had”, had “Had”. Had Had-had-had had the teacher’s approval?

    but I have no idea what a “Had Had” is….

  4. When reading “Drive carefully when wet”, my first thought is to drive cautiously when _I_ am wet 🙂

  1. Pingback: Linguistics, IT and two trees « ffeathers blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: