While working as a receptionist I came in to the office one morning to discover the elevator floor soaked from the dripping umbrellas and sloshing wet shoes. After receiving a few suggestions from people who had nearly broken their necks in the elevator on the way up, I wrote a fairly simple sign along the lines of:
Please be careful!
The floor is slippery!
Yes, I’m an artist.
Up went the sign and back I went to sorting through mail and growling about the state of the kitchen.
“I know, how cute!” I overheard.
“Hilarious,” another voice agreed. The pair walked into the kitchen and looked at me.
“Did you write the sign?” A blank expression. “In the elevator?”
“Oh! Yes … “
“Very funny.” I smiled politely. They made their coffee and I (not so politely) reminded them not to leave the teaspoons in the sink and milk on the bench.
Out I went to inspect this “funny” sign.
The floor is slipperty.
After being told that I absolutely should not pull down the sign and replace it without the typo, it remained for the day and I witnessed a series of giggles from the observant few who took the time to read the sign as they stepped into the slipperty elevator. I’m pretty sure it was the highlight of some people’s days.
Made up words are funny like that.
While there’s little chance of slipperty appearing in the dictionary any time soon, I have been thinking recently of this funny little word and a few others that I use that don’t actually exist. Is it OK to make up words? Is it OK if you’re intentionally “incorrect”? I don’t mean from an artistic level of misspelling words to demonstrate a lack of education in a character, but I refer more to making up words for the sake of having another word at your disposal. Surely we have enough words in the English language already?
Several weeks later I was in the bathroom sticking up signs reminding women to behave like ladies and stop trashing the public toilets. (I’m into signs.) Another woman from a different office looked at one of the signs and then looked at me with a sigh.
“Maybe the signs would be more effective if they had a word like slipperty in them.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You know, that adorable sign that was in the elevator a few weeks ago. About the floor being slipperty?”
“Yeah … I know.”
“It was great!”
“You wrote it?”
“Yes.” A look of admiration. A grin of appreciation. She left and I surveyed the signs, wondering how to make up the right words.
Sure, Shakespeare added a few words and phrases to the English language, so maybe it’s OK that I do it, too … I might not be able to add them to academic papers or use them in more formal writing (YET), but come on, slipperty is a winner, you have to admit!
And slipperty had quite an effect on the office. The next time the skies opened up and the elevator was deemed unsafe, I printed off another sign. This time, I omitted the typo and stuck it up on the wall before going about my morning ritual. Mail sorting. Kitchen grumbling. Paper clip counting.
When I stepped into the elevator later that day I saw that someone had taken a red pen to the sign. Dammit, I thought. I must pay closer attention to typos when I’m surrounded by editors (after all, I’m not perfect). I looked closely.
The floor is
I stood corrected … and laughing.
What made up words do you like to use?