Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens (i.e. the Mysore Zoo) wins the award for the most clever (and most gruesome) signage at a zoo.
Yes, it’s a sign for “Bump, Birth, & Beyond” (a maternity and baby related center from which Bed, Bath, & Beyond clearly stole inspiration) that–interestingly enough–is located adjacent to the Planned Parenthood office.
Cultural idiosyncrasies of language matter. In India on a daily basis I find myself asking, “They don’t mean what I think they mean, do they?” Here’s a few examples.
These billboards are all over Phuket, which isn’t to say that it’s one identical billboard (or even just one shooting range), but billboards showing ALMOST the widest possible demographic enjoying their arms. I say “almost” because for some reason they don’t include any old folks. I’m a little offended by that. Do they think that seeing crotchety elders holding guns will scare their potential customers, or are the old just not sexy enough for the advertising world?
I wonder if there was irony intended with the little girl with the Hello Kitty! shirt, bows in her hair, and gun bigger than her head in her hands?
If you’re like me, when you see the above sign, you say to yourself, “That is all well and good, but what if I get a non-conformist deer, or one of those illegals who can’t read English?” Now, I know what you’re thinking, usually they put a little leaping deer silhouette on the sign so the deer knows the sign is addressed to it, even if reading is not its strong suit. (Let’s face it, if reading were essential to life on this planet, most of humanity would die out.) At any rate, for any number of reasons I might collide with a deer in a completely inappropriate zone.
Now imagine my confusion, and then excitement, when I came across this sign on a recent walk.
This was a flat piece of land, and rocks are generally believed to be inanimate. So–at first blush–this doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense. However, then I began to think, “What if they mean ‘Rock’ as in ‘rock-n-roll’?” So I staked it out for an entire day, hoping to get an autograph–maybe Clapton or REO Speedwagon. Who did I get? No one. Not even Donnie Osmond, because–you know–he’s a little bit rock and roll (a very little bit, an infinitesimally small part nano-rock-n-roll.) There weren’t even local bands.
What’s more, no actual rocks tried to cross all day. No igneous, no sedimentary, no basalt, no granite, no shale, no pyrite, no agate, no jasper, no oolite, no amber, no opalite, no Icelandite, no norite, no obsidian, no quartz, no chert, no flint, no gneiss, no marble, no schist, no slate… are you getting my point here? There wasn’t a single rock crossing event all day. Furthermore, how would a rock even know where to cross the trail? They aren’t as smart as deer.
A couple years ago I saw this sign on Suomenlinna, a fortress island offshore from Helsinki. While it may not have been original, it made me laugh. The sign, meant to convey a fall hazard, featured a Sharpie marker addition of a kicking foot and a dialogue bubble proclaiming, “This is Sparta!.” If you don’t get this reference, you should see the movie 300. [Or, better yet, watch the clip below.]
Everyone sends an email or leaves a note on occasion that makes perfect sense to the writer, but which could mean any of a dozen things to the reader. That’s the price of doing business in a hectic world. However, if your job is making signs, it seems to me like cutting through the ambiguity would be important. Take the sign below, whose intended meaning is completely unclear to me.
A few of the possible meanings that sprang to mind were:
– “Give a girl a fist bump!”
– Pedophile-friendly zone
– Go Zone (i.e. they are walking away, so from that point you may only “go” and never “come”)
– Take Your Dad to School Day
– Midget Dating Allowed
Below is one that I think I comprehend, but you may disagree.
I’m pretty sure that it means, “Limbo dancing will be punished by God.” Granted I’m illiterate with respect to the squiggly language used in the caption and so maybe it says, “Watch out for falling snakes.”
Some signs seem to make perfect sense, but the context throws one a monkey-wrench. The sign below was seen on a little door of about 6X6 inches on the side of a tour-bus.
Now, obviously, this sign means, “Moose Fornication Zone.” However, how would you get the moose through that six-inch square portal?
Sometimes sign-makers add verbiage to reduce the ambiguity. This inevitably succeeds in making the sign more confusing than ever. I saw the sign below in a restaurant on Rue Sherbrooke in Montreal.
Now, seeing the photo, I was jonesing for some fatty, spicy pork product. However, every hetero male knows that you don’t ever want to be caught at a sausage fest.
I had a similar problem trying to decide whether to go into this gift shop at the Ming Tombs in China. The store bore this sign:
While I favor economic liberty, I’m willing to shop at a store that is state operated. However, it occurred to me that it could be the souvenirs that are state operated. What if they supplied a balding civil servant to operate the music box I bought there? That possibility was too creepy to consider.
Some signs are clear both pictorially and verbally, but, at the risk of digressing, one has to wonder if the sign is necessary.
If there’s a completely opaque film of diarrhea floating on the water, do you really need to tell people not to go for a swim?
It’s true that some times ambiguity is strategic. Who would go through a door, if they saw the sign below posted on it?
Well, people do go into the DMV, so I realize there are some sadists who might be into being clubbed, starved, burnt, or being subjected to particularly fierce animal–such as an ill-tempered gerbil.
As I try live my life in a positive manner, I’ll leave you with an example of a sign-maker who got it right.
Now this is a sign that is completely unambiguous. Clearly, this sign was located at a Baptist church, and it means, “Boys and girls doing the twist in the same room will go to hell.”