Wednesday, October 28, 2015

stop means stop

You see the signs adorning many corners: an addendum, or gloss, on the larger sign on the same metal post sporting the imperative STOP. (This codicil strikes me as a suburban phenomenon, reflecting a hyperattentive concern for propriety and rectitude one associates with American exurbia.) That STOP surely is a verb, not a noun announcing the type of action required at the junction. STOP MEANS STOP presumably means drivers who are supposed to be stopping are merely pausing. Or not stopping long enough, or not at all. If we are going to parse propriety, let's go further. Perhaps the editorial sign commenting on STOP should instead say: 'Stop' means stop. Or "Stop" [not the single quotes you see in headings] means stop. But let's go further. STOP MEANS STOP actually risks sending the opposite of its presumably intended message. You would never post such a message unless the word "stop" were being routinely ignored. So, how does replicating the word, repeating it, strengthen its force? Does it not weaken the word "stop"? Does it mimic the situation of a parent remonstrating a child, perhaps loudly, as the child clearly knows the word carries no force if not enforced? As a codicil upon a codicil, let me say that I suspect some visitors who read the title of this post arrived here by serpentine paths. They may have twinned STOP MEANS STOP with NO MEANS NO as an expression of sexual consent, or rather its lack. So, how does that alter the arc of the conversation? Or does it? We can milk this; we can explore endless variations. Peace means peace. War means war. Love means love. Hate means hate. Go means go. Walk means walk. Buy means buy. Sit means sit. Listen means listen. Talk means talk. Stop this means stop this.

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