On a recycling dumpster outside an office building in Edinburgh: MIXED CARDBOARD ONLY. That, although it's subtle, is a case of the phenomenon for which I have been using the (not exactly ideal) term nerdview. It is an example of a linguistically misleading communication in which the failure is not of grammar or meaning but of failing to keep in mind the viewpoint of the reader rather than the specialist (possibly nerdy) view of the writer. Do you see why?
Are you permitted to put cardboard in there only if it is mixed? Would a single piece, or a pair of pieces of cardboard of exactly the same type, be forbidden goods for that dumpster? No, of course not. That is the potential misreading. You might not even notice it (though you should, because more serious instances of nerdview could cause airline disasters or fires, and probably have, in cases we don't even know about). The point is that it is not us, the public throwing away packaging, who need to be told that the contents should only be mixed cardboard. All we need to know is that we should put cardboard in there. Putting in several pieces of exactly the same kind is fine; we do not have to ensure that it is mixed in any sense. It may or may not turn out at the end of the day that there are mixed sorts in there. If so, it is likely to be an unintended result of the collective actions of many of us not all throwing out the same kind of cardboard. It is just a mistake to tell us we should put only mixed cardboard in there. It signals a confusion about viewpoints.
The view of the contents as "mixed cardboard" is the recycling company's view. To the people who place the dumpster and collect from it it might be relevant that the contents cannot be guaranteed to be all of one type — clean brown corrugated, white unwaxed, glossy printed, double-thick stiff packing, fat-contaminated pizza-box, or whatever types might concern them.
The "ONLY" in the sign indicates that the message is supposed to be for us (we should our individual little item in there if and only if it is made of cardboard); the "MIXED" indicates a confusion with the entirely different view taken by the recycler who deals with the stuff in bulk and should regard this as mixed cardboard materials. Yes, it's a tiny point, and no harm done. But it is illustratively useful. If you can see what I mean, you have begun to grasp the concept of nerdview. As I said before, the problem is that
people with any kind of technical knowledge of a domain tend to get hopelessly (and unwittingly) stuck in a frame of reference that relates to their view of the issue, and their trade's technical parlance, not that of the ordinary humans with whom they so signally fail to engage.
They start out trying to write for us, and drift through inattention into unwittingly writing partly for themselves or their colleagues. The case noted above is fairly harmless (we can just ignore the word "MIXED"). But it betrays the viewpoint confusion that was there. Some cases of nerdview have much worse consequences, as in due course I will explain here in another post. But that will be another day.
[P.S.: I classify my nerdview posts under "Lost In Translation" simply because I cannot see any other category that we use as more appropriate. But the translation here is between thought and its linguistic expression.]