Oh, Oh, wh'd have thught we'd get a knckut punch dwntwn?
By Michael Lewis
Miami ingloriously became part of the spelling reform movement when its Downtown Development Authority last week voted to knock both O's out of Downtown Miami, leaving the name as Dwntwn in its new logo.
You can understand scrunching as an economy move. Directional signs would be smaller, saving two whole letters. On a big sign, that could mean hundreds of dollars saved. Forget about whether it conveys meaning quickly — think how many times you've had split seconds driving at 60 miles an hour to figure out what an HOV lane is.
But this wasn't an economy move. Proponents say it's supposed to make downtown edgy. It may wind up making the rest of us edgy, too, when we try to explain to visitors that, no, that sign isn't an error by some illiterate, authorities meant to delete the vowels.
Pray that it's not the start of a local marketing trend. What if the nascent Coconut Grove Business Improvement District decides to follow suit and label that community CoG, playing up its vital role in the machine that is Miami. It would be cute but confusing, because Coral Gables could pull the same CoG trick.
Or what if the City of Miami as a whole decided to knock out its vowels and link the two remaining letters to get a shorter but sweeter name, M&M.
A letter knockout campaign did work wonders for a city that reached its low point when the I © NY promotion put a smile on the face of the grumpiest New Yorker, though Miami hasn't, to our knowledge, reached the depths of despair that inspired that truncation.
Another great city started moving down the road to shorter and — presumably — edgier spelling almost a century and a half ago, when Chicago Tribune owner Joseph Medill, a member of the Council of the Spelling Reform Association, experimented with simplified spellings.
His grandson, Col. Robert R. McCormick, another Tribune publisher, formalized his own spellings with disastrous consequences. From 1934 to 1975, the Tribune, the city's largest and most influential newspaper, knocked letters out of words thruout (Tribune spelling) the paper, becoming an iland (Trib spelling) of misinformation that should have brought the sherif (Tribtalk) to the scene.
Those of us who read the Tribune as youngsters learned to spell frate (the cargo carried by fraters) like numskulls (Tribunese, too). Altho we made words rime thru our school days, we later discovered that the rest of the world did not adhere to Chicago Tribune style.
Until now. Colonel McCormick would feel right at home going Dwntwn — once he figured out what the sign said.
But pity our visitors from abroad. Whether or not they know The Queen's English, they'd have little idea what a Dwntwn is — but maybe that's the idea. What with a city core under construction and merchants' complaints of filth and overabundant homeless, maybe the hidden idea behind this branding is to camouflage the city's core until the Downtown Development Authority and the city can get things straightened out.
They certainly can't be trying to attract us with confusion, can they?
Or with the implication of a vowel movement, which gives a more-than-regrettable connotation to "going Downtown."