The Awkward Adverb: Numbered Days

Earlier this year, the clothing retailer Gap issued a limited collection of T-shirts designed by contemporary artists. The contribution of one Rirkrit Tiravanija (pictured in the middle) contains only the bleak, boldly printed sentiment: "The Days of This Society Is Numbered."

The sentence should be: "The Days of This Society Are Numbered." Days is the grammatical subject of the sentence. Since it's plural, it should take the verb are.

Was this error intentional? One message-board commenter insisted the shirt is meant as a joke, huffily adding, "We have reached a stage where irony no longer is possible. We have become that illiterate. The shirt is a last gasp of literacy."

The Awkward Adverb doesn't agree with this nonsense. Although we believe sloppy language degrades communication and hence society, not many others seem to share this conviction. (Just look at examples from our past issues for proof.) As Tiravanija is Thai, the error is most likely an understandable mistake by a non-native speaker and not an ironic critique of culture. For society's days that remain, Gap should employ a T-shirt proofreader.

Henry Alpert,the secret identity behind Action Copy, discovered his writing powers when a radioactive bookworm bit him on the hand at a young age. Before going solo many years ago, he reported for an Asian daily newspaper and taught writing at esteemed universities. He's earned a Master of Fine Arts and has worked on staff at a New York financial trade magazine. In Mr. Alpert, the creative and analytical unite to create one powerful writer. Mr. Alpert currently lives a mild-mannered existence in a quiet neighborhood of New Orleans with his wife, infant son, and dog.

The Awkward Adverb is a monthly e-mail newsletter which highlights English-language flaws that have appeared on a sign, in print, on the Web, or anywhere in the public sphere. If you wish to subscribe to the e-mail newsletter version of The Awkward Adverb, click here. This link also contains archived entries.

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