Monday, October 14, 2013

ALOTT5MA GRAMMAR RODEO HALL OF FAME:  I'm sorry I didn't learn of this April 2012 story until reading it in the new Green Bag Almanac & Reader of Useful and Entertaining Tidbits for Lawyers for the Year to Come and Exemplary Legal Writing from the Year Just Passed, as part of Bryan Garner's survey of The Year in Language & Writing, but it is a gem:
On that Sunday night, the parking prospects were slim, as they often are in [Park Slope]. Half an hour into his task, Mr. Vincent was still puttering along the streets with nary a parking spot in sight. Then suddenly before him there appeared a space right by his street, alongside Prospect Park. Mr. Vincent felt a burst of relief that soon gave way to trepidation after he caught sight of a sign. “No standing,” it read, “April to October.”

Mr. Vincent wondered what exactly that “to” meant, dithered for a bit, and then decided that it meant no parking until October began, which meant that that day, Oct. 2, was fair game.
So he slid the car into the space, walked home and went to bed. The next morning, the car was still there, unticketed, so Mr. Vincent concluded his interpretation had been right, and went on his way. The next time he checked, a day or so later, the car was gone. After some sleuthing, he discovered that it had been towed at the city’s behest to a lot in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It cost $225 to get out, and was bearing a parking ticket for $115....

So Mr. Vincent decided to appeal. It was a matter of principle, but also of grammar. He had consulted the grammarians in his life – a friend in publishing, a journalist, and his wife (“She’ll correct you,” he said of his wife. “It’s charming.”) — and they all agreed that the “to” in “April to October” meant “up until.” In his appeal he included definitions of “to” and “through” from the Oxford and Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries and


  1. bellawilfer4:15 PM

    I was towed from a spot marked "No parking Thurs - Mon 6pm - 6am" when I parked there on a Monday evening, having read the sign to mean that the rules ended Mon at 6am (logically, this was an area they were trying to leave open for valets to park cars on the busier weekend nights). I was charged a towing fee and received a parking ticket, both of which I tried to fight via letters to the City of Los Angeles, who did not give a hoot about the way the sign reads and basically threatened to raise the ticket price if I didn't pay up. So I paid. (TL; DR: "I fought the law's poor syntax and the law won.")

  2. I would have thought the same thing.

  3. Benner10:04 AM

    I tend to agree -- at least, it's not so clear cut as to fight. The "standing" versus "parking" distinction might also decide it -- he got out of the car, and the sign doesn't tell him what the regulations were on parking.