Signs of the times: a contest

Here’s a bit of a puzzler for you:  Identify what is wrong with this inscription found at my place of employment, and then explain why it is the way it is.

There isn’t a big cash prize for the winner, but I tell you what: the first correct respondent will get to decide the topic for an upcoming post at Glossographia.

Edit: Everyone has picked up on the inconsistency; the last letter of Wayne is not capitalized but StatE and UniversitY are.  However, no one has yet correctly discerned the explanation, so the contest continues!

Author: schrisomalis

Anthropologist, Wayne State University. Professional numbers guy. Rare Words: Blog:

17 thoughts on “Signs of the times: a contest”

  1. The E at the end of Wayne isn’t capitalized the was the final letters of ‘State’ and ‘University’ are.

    I would guess that is has something to do with spacing of the letters – if it were, shall we say, embiggened, the spacing would be off, and the ‘e’ in State would no longer fall in the center of the inscription?

  2. I think Elanya’s right about the error being the inconsitency in the use of larger final letters, but I’ll suggest a different explanation. Wayne State University used to be named simply Wayne University. I hereby hypothesize that the sign predates the name change, and that when the new name was introduced, they replaced “University” and added “State,” but left “Wayne” where and as it was, neglecting to change its final “E” to match the style of the new text.

  3. The last letter of Wayne isn’t a large capitalized letter as the last letters of the following two words are. I believe this might have to do with spacing, and the fact that the W at the beginning of Wayne is wider than the other large capitalized letters in the inscription. Another possibility is a stipulation somewhere that the name Wayne should always be presented with traditional capitalization.

  4. My first guess as to the “why?” was that maybe it used to be just called Wayne State, and the University was an addition, or that it’s named after Mr. State, Wayne State.

    Unfortunately, in checking around it seems that it used to be Wayne University and the “State” part was put in there a few decades later. I’ve got nothing.

  5. Perhaps they thought that if the ‘E’ at the end of Wayne was capitalized it would look too much like Wayn(e) Estate University?

  6. I am going to take a “stab in the dark” and go with this explanation: Because “Wayne” is not a “state” in the “United States of America”, Wayne StatE uses the capital “E” to differentiate its titling as opposed to (for example) Michigan State, Ohio State or Florida State University which are all actual “United” states.

  7. I did some Google searching, and found this

    So here’s my answer: When those letters were originally made, they were intended to be positioned in the way they appear in the above picture – in two lines and centred. W, S, and U are larger letters because they are the starting letters. E of State and Y of University were enlarged so the sign appears more symmetrical/balanced and therefore more aesthetically pleasing when they are laid out like this. I’m guessing that at some point, the letters were taken down, and then put back up… but this time they were arranged in a single line.

    How did I dooo?

  8. Dingdingdingding! We have a winner! Congratulations, Katherine, on discerning the correct answer! (I am entirely unsurprised that you got it, given your research interests.)

    Your prize is that you get to ask any question about linguistic anthropology / archaeology / literacy studies and I will write about it in an upcoming post here on Glossographia. Let me know what you would like to know.

  9. That’s it? Nothing better? I googled too (now I know how important protocal is when designing letterhead for the school!) Funny how the type was showing up in documents – so I thought it was a specialty font.
    I even searched ‘WSEUY’ thinking that is was code for super brilliant people… even thought about the abscence of the IG (I just kept seeing ‘wiseguy’) then couldn’t think of the significance of the missing IG… maybe the person putting them back up was a wiseguy…

  10. The “E” in WAYNE isn’t capitalized because Wayne is the name of the school and STATE and UNIVERSITY are not.

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