It wasn’t his finest day. Two and a half years ago, a Wisconsin Highway Department spokesman had to explain how every word on a large road sign was misspelled except “Exit.” “Business” appeared as “Buisness,” “Rothschild” was “Rothschield” and “Schofield” was “Schofeild.”
His explanation? “We all make mistakes. But for most of us, they’re not put up for all the public to see.”
People who put out a newspaper every day can empathize. And so can the S.C. Department of Transportation, after misidentifying the Esau Jenkins Memorial Bridge between Johns and Wadmalaw islands. The signs said “Easu Jenkins” — but only briefly.
When they were made aware of the gaffe, workers took them down right away, and new ones were made to replace them.
Unfortunately, the inadvertent misspelling has the potential of suggesting to his admirers disrespect for Esau Jenkins, a man who championed literacy on our rural sea islands and who helped bring much-needed medical care to their inhabitants.
Esau Jenkins is not a name to be misspelled.
Of course, most roads and bridges that bear individuals’ names pay tribute to deserving people. So the irony isn’t unusual.
In Richland, Wash., four streets named for World War II and Korean War heroes were misspelled. Four.
In Kentucky, Maj. Joseph Hamilton Daveiss is widely honored — often as Maj. Joseph Hamilton Daviess. The misspelling is on signs and a school. Even the county named for him is misspelled, and hence the courthouse.
Students know about the ironclad Merrimack, but the Massachusetts town is Merrimac. Except on the sign.
But perhaps the most ironic of misspellings is one that seems to occur the most frequently — signage warning motorists that they are approaching a school. Or, as some have indicated, a shcool, a shool, a scohol or a schoul.
Esau Jenkins was an enlightened man who dedicated his life to making the lives of islanders better. He founded the First Citizenship School in the 1950s to teach literacy so island residents could vote.
And while he might not have tolerated misspellings, perhaps he would smile at the irony:
People on those same sea islands where, 60 years ago, residents were not allowed to vote because they couldn’t read, spotted the mistake immediately.
No matter how you spell it, Esau Jenkins’ legacy lives on.