One thing I particularly love about Prague are the bits of strange art you find randomly here and there, now and then. Sometimes it’s brilliant, sometimes meaningful, sometimes not so much, and sometimes the line between art and graffiti is blurred.
And one thing that people who know me know, especially people who know me on the internet, is that I can be an insufferable grammar Nazi, and misspellings drive me up the wall.
So, I was walking in Žižkov today, from Lipanska down the hill to Husinecka, when I saw a building on a side street, with a mural top to bottom on the side of it. It was a dragon, or the head of a dragon like creature at any rate. The art work was cool, and it would have been otherwise a bland plaster facade, four or five stories high, so a net positive for the neighborhood. There was a little poem that went with it, or an epigram you might say, in three lines which, if the side of the building were a flag, would have been three evenly spaced narrow stripes. I don’t remember the words exactly, but it was something like:
The dream takes all the air from the room
leaving not enough oxygen for both of us
I try not to move or breath
Now, I see four possibilities. The least likely, IMO, is that they actually screwed up the spacing and just as they painted the h in breathe, they realized they were out of space. The h was flush with the corner, for sure.
I think that’s the least likely. The lettering was immaculate, and it’s clear the whole thing was mapped out. I mean, I make mistakes like that all the time, but I trust people doing major public art to put a bit more aforethought into it.
Possibility two is that they were making a poetic statement in that last line, the cutting off of breath, because there’s no more oxygen, that’s where the poem ends, without the final e. I like that possibility.
The third possibility is, unfortunately, the most likely. The artist just didn’t know the difference in spelling between breath and breathe, which kind of makes me feel bad after 20 some years of teaching English here. (I’m assuming the artist was Czech) But, perhaps I should not be so harsh. They did create a fine work of art, and I’ve seen Americans make the same mistake.
The fourth possibility is that they knew the difference in spelling, but just didn’t give a shit. “Hey, I’ll spell it however I like, people know what I mean.” If that was the case, I hate them.