Usage and Grammar

Q. Regarding wording on a historic marker, is it appropriate to have the marker read “Probable” or “Vicinity of”? My view is both phrases are ambiguous and don’t merit a marker at all.

A. “Vicinity of” is appropriate, because it tells viewers that they are standing near the location of a historic event without claiming that it happened at that exact spot. It doesn’t seem fair to disqualify an important event from commemoration just because recorded history failed to include its GPS coordinates. “Probable” is a bit more dicey. By itself, it’s a little suspect and not very helpful, but if the marker can explain further, then it too might be the best word to convey the facts.