Monday, May 15, 2006


Is the spray-can mightier than the shotgun?

On my first few trips to Corsica two decades ago I was intrigued to note that the locals here enjoy taking pot-shots at road signs with their guns when no-one's looking.

I always asumed that this was the sign of pure nationalist fervour, that people objected to the approved spelling of villages' names, preferring the Corsican name instead. I think there is an element of nationalism, certainly, in these actions, and they will indeed remind the authorities that Corsica values its language. However, I also think that local boar hunters get a bit bored waiting for their prey to show themselves, and take their frustrations out on the signposts - prominent objects that offer great target practice. A friend who came to Corsica recently delighted in taking a collection of photographs of these mangled signs and he still enjoys showing them to his friends.

These days you're more likely to have your local road sign defaced by spray-can, and the gesture is far more eloquent. First, paint sprays are more visible than bullet holes, and are also more precise, allowing the author to eliminate just the French writing. And if there is no Corsican version of the words on the sign, you can, with care, write it on in paint.

We know the pen is mightier than the sword. Now you know that the spray-can is mightier than the shotgun.

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