Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Choosing the right Words: Flows to Bay

I like it when someone finds the right words to convey a message.

In most of the Bay area, the storm drains are stenciled with messages that say "No dumping, flows to Bay", or "No dumping, flows to Stevens Creek", identifying the particular local waterway that leads to the Bay or Ocean. In other places around the country I usually see "No dumping, drains to river." Since I moved to the Bay Area, it has always seemed to me that the word "flows" was much more persuasive than "drains". "Flows" immediately makes the storm drain system feel like part of a living waterway, while "drains" leaves people with their inchoate feelings that whatever is flushed down will somehow be treated before it re-emerges.

And adding the identity of the destination makes the message even clearer. Whatever you put in here will emerge not very far downstream among your neighbors.

BTW, Google finds 537 referents for "drains to river", vs. 209 for "flows to river".

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