10 Directional-Sign Disasters

By Mark Nichol

Here’s a photo gallery of directional signs that should give visitors pause.

front door typo

Enclosing one or more words in quotation marks when the marks are not used in the context of quoting another person is widely believed to represent emphasis, but among careful writers, this technique represents skepticism or distancing oneself from the term, as if to say, “I didn’t come up with this idea; I’m just reporting it.” Therefore, the use here of scare quotes around not creates cognitive dissonance. The photographic subject looks like an entrance to me. But’s it’s “not.”

Is the author of this message conflicted about the truth of the statement? And is the “front” door not really a front door? (Solution: Just underline handwritten words for emphasis, and your existential crisis will dissipate.)

slowly typo

By the same token, how does one open a door “slowly”? Does one merely pretend to exercise caution? Does one ignite a slapstick routine by feigning a measured widening of the aperture in the doorway and then suddenly flinging the door open? When the president of the company is the victim of such a prank, is only the perpetrator culpable, or is the sign maker fired, too? (Solution: For job security, use italics.)

dignitary typo

Metropolitan State University certainly has its protocols down to an exact science, designating a special room where VIPs can be mugged. It might have been better, however, to set aside separate rooms for staff orientation and the reception so that the muggers have enough space to work in and nobody else gets hurt.

door typo

Yes, that door is very close. You are certainly correct about that. Thanks for pointing it out for me. Is there another close door that I can use?

exchibits typo

That’s something you don’t see every day. Does Hoover Dam charge admission to view the restrooms from the exhibits?

for to get typo

Private room? You know, it’s no problem, really — I think I’ll just wait until I get home.

ladies room typo

Ladie, when you’re done taking a picture of the sign, would you mind stepping aside so I can get to the me’ns room?

leave door typo

The typographical error of upon for open is forgivable, but the second sentence is problematic not just in construction (suggested revision: “IT staff needs access until keys are obtained”) but in what’s between the lines: “Until we do get the keys, which, thanks to this company’s byzantine requisition procedure should happen sometime in the next decade, help yourself to any of the expensive, vital electronic equipment located herein.”

stairs typo

As I said earlier, I can wait. No, really, I’m good. (I can smell the stairway from here.)

game typo

Irate customer: “Open if your game enough”? It’s you’re! You’re!! You’re!!!
Sales associate at the counter, talking into the telephone: “Security to the front desk, please — hurry!”

These images are from the websites Apostrophe Abuse, the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks, and Wordsplosion.

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8 Responses to “10 Directional-Sign Disasters”

  • thebluebird11

    OMG Mark, please warn me next time if I need to put on a diaper before reading one of your posts! Or I might need to use a private room, or the stairs, or worse, the restrooms at the Hoover Dam, where tourists will be watching me…
    Well, I’ve had my laugh for today…it’s all downhill from here LOL

  • Vincent

    “These images are from the websites Apostrophe Abuse, the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks, and Wordsplosion.”

    Citing one’s sources is ell and good, but on the web, there is even this radical newfangled concept of a “hyperlink”. In the context of blogging, I have it on good authority that it is considered good manners to link back to the sources from which one takes content.

  • Dan Erickson

    Funny stuff. I’d love to see more posts like this. Humor can be an excellent learning tool.

  • trudy

    under the “Ladie’s” sign, your comment said “Ladie,…” but you probably meant to say “Lady” (referring to the lady taking the picture).

  • Dale A. Wood

    @Trudy: No, I am quite sure that the word “ladie” was used quite deliberately to poke fun at that absurd sign. Please keep you eyes open for humor.

    By the way, I saw something very similar recently. I was in a discount store looking for something completely different when I saw a package labeled “Ladie’s rain bonnet.”
    That bonnet and its package were both made in China, of course. It is quare (unusual, strange) why Chinese companies cannot find at least a few people who know how to write English correctly for producing their packaging, instruction booklets, etc., for their exported products.

    In the United States, manufacturing companies do not have any trouble hiring employees who know how to write Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yiddish for the export market.

    In case you haven’t noticed, the American export market to French Canada and Mexico (and other Spanish-speaking countries) is positively huge. I often find instuction booklets for American products that are printed in English, French, and Spanish. Our largest international trading partner is Canada, and for most products to be exported to Canada, there are Canadian laws that say that all such things must be printed in English and French.

    Also, ever since the NAFTA Treaty was enacted, I have seen lots of Canadian products with printing on them in English, French, and Spanish. I can only presume that the writing is accurate in all three languages.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    In case you missed it, I have written a note about this before:

    “Enclosing one or more words in quotation marks when the marks are not used in the context of quoting another person is widely believed to represent emphasis, but among careful writers, this technique represents skepticism or distancing oneself from the term…”

    I have been to a sandwich shop that also serves pizza as a sideline. On its wall-mounted menu, it says “pizza”.
    As I pointed out to the owner (to amuse him) that means “our so-called pizza”. LOL, that could be a pizza made of cardboard, kechup, and cottage cheese instead of the usual ingredients!

    Watch out for places that sell “computers” because those are “so-called computers” that probably do not do what they are supposed to do. Most of those are devices made to drive people to consternation and insanity – because they do not do what they are commanded to do.
    In other words, they are relatives of HAL 9000.

    I loved it in the film “2010: Odyssey Two” when Dr. Chandra told HAL this: “HAL, accept Priority Override Alpha.”
    In other words, “Shut up and listen, HAL, do what you are commanded to do, and don’t ask any more questions.”

  • rAy

    Well, I’ll bet ya in and among the great unwashed out here that the majority will see the quoted words as a notice or warning to watch or do something in a certain way.

  • Stephen Thorn

    It’s hardly surprising that these examples appear in everyday, run-of-the-mill places. After all, such businesses aren’t prone to hiring proofreaders or English professors to make their signs. What brings me up short is when you see dumb signs in places with staff that SHOULD know better. For example, just down the street from me there’s an Academy of Science building with the sign posted out front: “No Smoking on Premise” (sic). Really? You’d think a place that teaches such a precise thing as science would be certain their signs read correctly. Perhaps the philosophy is that most people are too clueless, uneducated, or busy to notice any difference, so why spend the extra money to do it right?

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