The anonymous heroes are fighting the spelling vandalism.
While walking with my partner through the capital, I was struck by the sheer amount of graffiti that defaces the architecture and beauty of the place. Both of us agreed that if graffiti is going to be done, it should have a creative purpose, and not just be a way to dirty a wall. You can be cleverer by surprising passersby with an interesting piece of art.
Graffiti has never been an act of activism. It has simply become blank canvases for youths without any meaning. It has been the same debate: is it vandalism, or an artistic expression? As I was asking myself just the other day: there’s another strange thing about this form of communication that needs to be mentioned. The spelling is deplorable.
It’s a good thing I am not alone in my thinking. A few years back, a group called “unsung hero” shocked the world by presenting a unique and fair proposal for graffiti.
In the middle night, several men started wandering through the streets of Quito in Ecuador, carrying aerosol cans. The men were not revolutionaries or activists, but grammarians with the mission of correcting the spellings in the graffiti. On social media, graffiti were edited with red, orange or other sprays. Accents, question marks, and commas had also been added.
Who are they? The group called itself Ortographic Action Quito, and described themselves as anonymous heroes who fight spelling vandalism. They were fed up of the typos they saw in graffiti and armed themselves to do something about it.
The ideal of the project is that spelling errors devalue a message, and can even be ugly. We believe that this noble mission is aimed at helping society avoid confusion, frustration and anguish caused by poor language.
The Ecuadorian spelling war guerrilla has spread throughout the Spanish-speaking world. They inspired “Madrid Spelling Action”, a group that corrects misspelled sentences on public signs in Madrid.
The Madrid group, which did not identify itself (it’s normal because municipal law forbids the use of paintings that aren’t permitted on walls), told a BBC reporter that they are made up of a large number of individuals, and to take part, it was enough to be a speller: “We wanted to demonstrate that spellingers are an active minority.” The group is interested in helping people communicate effectively, so we will help them with markers, sprays and even slaps if necessary.
On social media, these groups received the praise they deserved. Some users think that this group’s name, style and even its origins were inspired by Accion Poetica. This group is another graffiti artist group who gained fame through social media for their clever phrases and messages.
Experts have praised the initiative. In this Infobae piece, Silvia Ramirez-Gelbes, a doctor of Linguistics said that she viewed the work by Accion Ortografia with great favor: “It’s an original and intriguing proposal.” It’s a little strange to see the same word misspelled (and even more in public) so often. It can be very useful if the purpose of this activity is to start a conversation about spelling, and not just to laugh at bad spellers.
She said that “two widely held theories need to be debunked.” One is that all spelling errors are due to lack of education. On the one hand, spelling mistakes are exclusive to those with a lack of education. Ramirez said that technology has not affected writing negatively, but the issue is more apparent: “Now, we write more than ever before.” In the past, we used to talk over the phone with our friends and spells “couldn’t be seen.” Today, we use WhatsApp to send messages. This could be the start of a trend that spreads to other European cities.
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