I was downtown around Berri St. and René-Lévesque Blvd. last week, frustrated that I had just missed my night bus connection, when I walked down the street and noticed this curious beast parked next to a hotel. It’s a bus by a company called Great Canadian Coaches, based in Ontario. On the side is a mural of images of great Canadians past and present. The other side of the bus has another few dozen faces. By my count, there are 45 hand-painted images of Canadians (46 if you count Wayne and Shuster separately, more if you count the Group of Seven individually). I thought that was really nice.
Near the door, I spotted this image of Canada’s governor-general, David Johnston:
It didn’t take me long to notice the spelling of his name next to his image. Shouldn’t it have a T in it? I remember the newly appointed governor-general had the same name as a Gazette journalist (which led to some good-natured fun at his expense congratulating him on his new post).
Of course, I was right. Both the journalist and the governor-general are spelled “Johnston”. It’s kind of an embarrassing mistake to make on the side of a bus.
Here’s the kicker: It’s autographed.
I tried to wrap my head around the logic. Did the governor-general sign his name and not notice that his name was misspelled right there? Was the name added after the signature? Was Johnston just too polite to point out the error?
Rather than jump to conclusions, I asked the bus company and Rideau Hall’s press office about the mistake.
Rideau Hall’s Marie-Eve Létourneau responded to my email (in which I tried to be as protocol-friendly as possible, referring to him as the Right Honourable David Johnston, stopping just short of calling him “His Excellency“). She said Johnston did indeed sign the bus when both were in Waterloo, Ont. She said he did notice the misspelling of his name but “made no mention of the misspelling” to Great Canadian Coaches. She said they would address the matter with the company.
The story from Great Canadian Coaches differs slightly. Managing Director Lorna Hundt said the company was aware of the misspelling, and “we are waiting until we have the coach home long enough to have it corrected.
“We were very embarrassed about it, especially when we met him and had him sign his image on the coach,” she continued. “He was wonderful about it and showed his keen sense of humour, saying that he always spelled his name incorrectly when he stole sheep from the neighbour’s farm.”
It’s a cute little anecdote, even if it contradicts what Rideau Hall told me.
Hundt said the company felt bad about the error. “We take a great deal of pride in the images on our coaches, and this mistake was regrettable,” Hundt wrote in an email.
Great Canadian Coaches has many buses, each with a different mural honouring different people (with themes such as stage and screen, women, musicians and athletes). Though it was particularly embarrassing because it happened on the only image on this particular bus that has been autographed, it’s not the end of the world.
Except Johnston’s name isn’t the only one they misspelled.
(For the sake of those who may not be familiar with some of these figures – and I admit some were unfamiliar to me – I’ve linked the photos to their Wikipedia pages)
When I got home, I went on the company’s website to learn about them. I saw pictures of their other buses, and noticed that some of them also had misspellings.
When I asked Hundt about additional misspellings, she said “Let me know what you found, and we’ll take care of it.”
Well, here’s what I found. From the names I saw on that bus in Montreal, and the ones I found on photos online, about 100 total, I found nine errors.
I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether a 9% error rate is acceptable for names of supposedly famous Canadians that a company puts on the side of a bus.
Precious, please get a hobby. You take your work everywhere.
Interesting Post – They outsourced the bus painting to a foreign country. But it’s true bus company employees are not noted for their 3R’s (Ralph Kramden of the Honeymooners).
I hope they can find Tronto on a map.
When you are driving 90 km/hr on the highway it looks great, and spelling doesn’t matter. I guess they forgot that the bus sometimes stops.
Given how creepy some of those portraits look, I think the subjects may be happy their names are misspelled.
Wow, this is the epitome of shlockiness. And who autographs a bus? Though it did get me thinking about the most inexcusable typos I have come across in my career. I think the one that takes the cake would be a press release that landed on my desk from a local figure skating club that was thrilled to announce that one of its skaters would be competing for Canada at the 1994 Winter Olympics in L’il Abner, Norway. Of course, the Olympics were in Lillehammer that year.
Wait a second here. Doesn’t the author of this blog work as a copy editor for a newspaper that is laughably full of similar errors?
Put down your stones, Mr Faguy — at least while you’re in that glass house.
I think there’s a difference between a daily newspaper with tens of thousands of words a day and something painted on the side of a bus.
But yes, mistakes in the newspaper (particularly in headlines or other large type) are just as embarrassing. Not that we make them. We ever never make spelling misstakes.
The artiste should have used to spell cheque
You’re right, there is a difference. People judge a newspaper by the quality of its written content. Buses? Not so much.
Still, one would think that with all of the under-employed writers out there, the bus company could have hired a proofreader with the money they (obviously) saved on the second-rate illustrations.
Your transit nerd side and copy editing nerd side must have had a massive orgasmic explosion.
Kind of bizarre that they’d go to all this trouble and not bother to have the correct spellings of the names.
I guess everyone is getting so used to texting and tweeting, hoping spellcheck will catch the mistakes. They didn’t have the Canadian dictionary enabled on their smartphones when they sent out the names to the “artist”. Really Sarah Chalke? She is funny and all, but bus worthy? Does she have one of those stars sponsored by Global?
Funny I also saw a bus like this one parked at the bottom of Champs de mars a few weeks ago. I did notice a few pselling mitsakes but what I really noticed is how few (one? two?) Quebecers were part of their “Great Canadian” (no s, yes)…
Perhaps it’s equally important to ask how a governor general and the chick from “Scrubs” are considered great Canadians? If unveiling plaques and proroguing parliament whenever someone tells you to are marks of a great Canadian, I’d hate to think what qualifies someone as a mediocre Canadian. And it is undeniable that Scrubs is the Taliban’s favourite show. Mullah Omar Tivos every episode so that he can watch them with his one eye.