Larry Webster: Unnecessary letters, ugly plaques

Maybe Pikeville was just saving money

Contributing columnistApril 29, 2012 

A plaque that was presented by Pikeville officials to University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari.

Coach Cal will not have the time to recruit those Wundunners of the World if all he can get done is to read plaques people thrust at him.

So if Pikeville had just not done anything at all, that plaque with the stray apostrophe and the slight misspelling of the word "the" might have gone unnoticed, back there in the storage room in the plaque stack, waiting to be shipped to the NBA someday.

So now Pikeville, the most literate of the three places I have lived, has to assert and defend its literacy, as though it were important to explain that we took that 'e' out of 'the' because it is unnecessary, doesn't help the word a bit and helps use up ink cartridges. Plus, if your local ugly plaque guy charges by the letter, cities save tax dollars so more of it can be paid to a ball coach.

So we do mix up "its" and "it's." The differences between those two are understood by the same tiny minority who remember the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A mountain tornado announcement would say "Look out, One's a' comin'."

You have to be safe with tornados and apostrophes. In Pike County, which has better schools than you do, to be safe we put an apostrophe before all last s's, especially plurals. It's just part of our stylebook, used in regions where basketball is real important.

We just don't waste words. One time a little quiet short holler boy came walking slowly up to the head of Joe's Creek. He stood around purposefully for a while until I finally said, "What's on our mind, Scottie?"

"You still got them boards?"

"Yeah, what do you want with them?" I asked.

"To borry 'em."

"What for?"

"To put ma in. She died." He put the emphasis on the she, putting back that extra 'e' he had abandoned a few sentences back. He has yet to bring back the borrowed boards.

When Rick Pitino came to Kentucky to coach nobody jumped on Floyd County for a billboard alongside Route 23 which read "Welcome Patino."

In the most notable incident involving incorrect spelling, one time CBS ran a show which sort of offended the junior-college types of the mountains who thought it portrayed us as backward. The Hazard CBS affiliate had a show to protest our mistreatment and told the audience to write in to the president of CBS and let him know we are not ignorant. They said his name and address would appear on the television screen and it did — misspelled.

They take the worst spellers in the hill country and turn them into sign painters. On one creek up here, for many years there was, and may still be, a professional sign advertising "cahin saws" for sale. "Sale" as a noun is more often written as "sell"in these parts, as in, "the sell of the house."

Or if it were more than one house it would be: "th sell of th house's."

Larry Webster, a Pikeville lawyer, can be reached at websterlawerencer@bellsouth.net.

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