Amusing signs show up everywhere


Some years ago, this sign appeared in London: “How dare New York call itself the Big Smoke?”
Such amusing signage shows up everywhere. Sometimes, as in the London example, the endeavour to provoke laughter is clear. Sometimes, unfortunate wording or spelling is unintentionally funny. Other times, a typo is to blame. Yet again, translation can produce strange results.
When I lived in Edmonton, this message once greeted people arriving at St. Joseph’s Cathedral (now a basilica): “No shoes. No shirt. No service.”
There once was — maybe there still is — a signboard on the outskirts of Neepawa, Manitoba, urging, “Drive carefully. You might hit an Anglican.”
I recently noticed this yellow, highway-type sign outside Bethesda Church on Grant: “Thou shalt watch for children crossing.”
This same church once posted one of the best notices I’ve ever seen: “Remember. The Titanic was built by experts, the Ark by an amateur.”
Funny, attention-grabbing signs have been around for a long time. Some people collect them. Here are a few intentionally amusing signs:
• From a shop window in Oslo: “English spoken. American understood.”
• In a Seattle butcher shop: “Pork sausages from pigs who died happy.”
• Who wouldn’t heed this highway billboard in a small town in New South Wales, Australia? “Slow. Two cemeteries. No hospital.”
• Another highway sign, this one spotted in Tennessee, warns, “Caution. Water on road during rain.”
• Yet another road sign — seen in the eastern U.S. — tells us, “Railroad accidents are the best indication that people do not believe in signs.”
• A B.C. bumper sticker, apparently from the CAA, says, “Call us at any hour. We’re always on our tows.”
Amusing as these messages are, most often, the fun arises by accident — from unfortunate wording or translation. Here’s one from the big appliance department of a Kentucky department store: “Don’t kill your wife. Let our washing machines do the dirty work.”
A church in the Maritimes advised, “Don’t let your troubles get you down. The church can help.”
In Barbados: “Supermarket for conscious shoppers.”
Feminists could justifiably take umbrage with this notice posted in a Roman doctor’s office: “Specialist in women and other diseases.”
This one was spotted in a Bucharest hotel: “The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time you will be unbearable.”
A Boston restaurant advertised, “New Improved Old-Fashioned Beef Stew.”
And this ad appeared in an Oregon paper: “Why go elsewhere to be cheated when you can come here?”
Whenever you drive on U.S. roads you noticed the proliferation of billboards. They seem to be everywhere. Periodically, some community or state makes noises about limiting these, but nothing seems to happen. The signs are still there.
Americans, being Americans, make jokes about all this signage. Irvin S. Cobb (1876-1944) once said, “Behind the billboards lies New Jersey.”
But it’s probable that no one can top Song of the Open Road by Ogden Nash (1902-1971). “I think that I shall never see /A billboard lovely as a tree. /Indeed, unless the billboards fall/ I’ll never see a tree at all.”