Linguistic Hell

On my usual Monday night delivery route, I passed a lit sign in front of a church somewhere out towards the north fork of Long Island. It said, “GOOD WITHOUT GOD IS JUST O,” and for a little bit, I didn’t catch what it was trying to convey. Good is just O? I thought. O? As in oh no? As is the big O? Good is an orgasm without God? What? I didn’t get it. But that’s because I’m a typesetter at heart. O is not 0. I never say “oh” in phone numbers when I mean zero. O is a letter, and 0 is a digit. Any typeface that is not trying to mimic a typewriter is going to have two different glyphs two represent two different characters. Anyone who finds it acceptable to replace a zero with the letter O should also have no problem replacing the number 1 with a lower-case l. “GOLD WITHOUT GOD IS JUST L” doesn’t make any sense. Let’s put that in proper case (all caps is a crime against typography and clarity anyway). “Gold without God is just l,” is still obviously idiotic. But on a typewriter that could mean “… just one.” It sounds more poetic, but has no meaning, which, all cleverness aside, is what I think of the original as well. Good without God isn’t nothing. Good without God is still good. Why do you need an absolute reference point to do good? Why does one need a specific brand of bearded cloud-father (Methodist, I think) to determine good or evil? Ethics exists without the assistance of religion to classify right from wrong. And, anyway, it was a poor pun, and it depended on the invention of typewriters and cheap signage to make it work.