On the Unbearable Precision of Language

There is a movie theater near us that we frequent because they show “small” and “art” movies in addition to the swill that Hollywood forces down our collective throats these days.

But this theater inflicts two quirky pre-movie announcements on audiences, and I have to report on them.

The first one, which the theater claims is required by state law, patiently informs listeners that there are two exits at the front of the theater, each marked with a red “Exit” sign. It then reminds us that there is also an exit at the back of the theater and — Surprise! — it is also marked with a red “Exit” sign.

In case of emergency, we are told, we should go to the nearest exit and exit the theater immediately.

Seems like the guy who wrote this got extra pay for how many times he could use the word “Exit.” And what if someone doesn’t know what “exit” means? (Let’s not even discuss that the film is addressing a collective audience of “yous” plural, and should instruct “all of you” to “exeunt” the theater…)

But wait, there’s more. After warning you that “for your peace of mind” you may not want to put handbags or other personal belongings on the floor (in case the guy behind you kicks over his soda, or just pees on the floor?)…then they invite you to provide comments to the manager of the theater. “He or she wants to be of service to you.”

And companies wonder why their workers are dispirited and demoralized? Why should the employees be happy and smiley when the company doesn’t even care to find out if the manager of a theater is male or female?

Best for last department: American Airlines “Bistro” flights. They used to put a cooler in the jetway and tell you it was a Bistro flight. That’s aviation talk for “We fired all the flight attendants, pick up your own damned lunch!”

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