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A thoughtful misspelling

Who's responsible: Arlington Public Library

Libraries are repositories of knowledge for their communities, beacons for erudite seniors and burgeoning book-report researchers alike. So when one is informed that a sign with an egregious misspelling has been posted immediately outside the front doors of a library -- the Arlington Central Library, say, where a no-smoking area near the front doors is advertised as a "Fresh Aire Zone" -- one looks for alternative explanations.

Perhaps the sign is a reference to the pristine waters of the Aire River in Yorkshire, England, spilling through the rolling hills before running through Leeds? What about etymology? The Greek and Latin roots put the "e" in the middle, but in older English... or maybe a French student was inserting a joke, turning it into the Fresh Area Zone? Are there many Galician or Catalan or Occitan speakers in Arlington?

fresh_aire_zone.jpgArlington Public Library spokesman Peter Golkin says the joke is less linguistic and more bureaucratic.

"I know exactly the sign you're talking about," Golkin said. "That's a play on words because Arlington has a program for fresh air. It's not a misspelling, it's a county brand."

The Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions aims to cut the county's greenhouse gas output to 10 percent lower than the 2000 levels by 2012 -- although the output from smokers presumably are not included in that metric.

The sign's awfully simple, though. Won't it confuse most people who come across it? Isn't the program worth explaining?

"Fresh AIRE's pretty well known in the county," Golkin said. "With a small sign you can't explain everything. Someone was being clever."

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  June 3, 2010; 9:37 PM ET
Categories:  Unfixed , Virginia  
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