Issue 528

Urban Field Notes: Dwon on the Corner

Grab your [figurative] blue pencil: The streets of San Francisco can be a typo-spotters dream.

Urbanist Article

Frank Lloyd Wright is quoted as saying that the physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines. Embedded in the concrete of San Francisco sidewalks are a number of street name goofs that just hope to be ignored. While grammar enthusiasts may see these glaring errors as needing correction, I think of them as Easter eggs: fun things to look for as you explore the city, and amusing reminders of our shared imperfection.

Whoever added the spellcheck zigzag line to this Bryant Street goof has my undying admiration.


As with a printing press, the words need to be lined up in reverse in order to imprint correctly. In these cases, I believe the workers arranged the stamps in what looked right facing them, but then got backwards results in the cement.


This corner got me started and it’s still my gold standard for sidewalk typos. In addition to the misspelled “Missouri,” note the number 1 used in place of the letter I, upside-down and the W’s masquerading as M’s. (Side note: When I lived nearby, I got a letter addressed to “Misery” Street —a fail on the part of the change-of-address person at my HMO, but a win for the USPS for still getting it to me.)


Along Middlefield Drive I found three completely different misspellings. Fourth time’s the charm?


You’re not getting into Harvard, Cambridge, or Vassar with these spelling skills.


Geary and Bryant are potentially dangerous, highvolume arterials. “Gary” and“Bryan,” by contrast, are the two guys in your freshman dorm who played “Sonic the Hedgehog” all the time.


This Leavenworth typo seems like a Zen message. What does it mean to “leave worth” on this earth?


Of this numerical mess, I love “2th” (tooth?) in particular.

Thomas Rogers, is a planner with the City of Menlo Park, a member of the San Francisco Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee and an active urban hiker. Additional sidewalk typos and other photos are available at: