Signs of the times

The English language is a wonderful thing. But things can go wrong. Take this sign that I spotted on my last visit to the Highlands.
Now in one sense the sign is correct. There are no cars on the grass. But I think the wording they were actually looking for was “No cars allowed on the grass”
It is rather like the big envelopes you used to get through the post stating in large letters : “Photographs do not bend” It made me want to fold them in two and write beneath the wording : “Oh yes they do”
A couple of road signs in Scotland always amuse me. The first is “Dull, linked with Boring”. Good on them – they’ve created a positive out of a negative. And up north “Strome Ferry. No ferry”
They’re both slightly better than the road sign in Wales which was believe it or not the “Out of office” message from the translation unit that was used by councils to translate the signs into Welsh. I’ll bet there were a couple of red faces after that incident.
I feel sorry for people trying to learn English. It must be so difficult. We’re talking about a language where you can repeat the same word four times and it is still correct: “The pathologist concluded that the deep-fried mars bar he had had had had no contributory factor towards his death.” I feel sorry for the restaurant abroad where demanding English speaking guests obviously visited regularly :
“Customers who consider our waiters uncivil should see the manageress”. Nothing wrong with the translation. But a bit of a double-entendre – the all too regular occurrence that spawned the Carry On films and many of the 70’s sitcoms.
But it is possible to get it right and I’ve seen two signs recently which have restored my faith in the English language. The first on a building site nearby : “Work safe. Home safe.” I think there’s a profound truth there in four short words. And finally on the van of a dog creche firm : “Bark and ride”. I barked but they didn’t stop!


8 thoughts on “Signs of the times

    • Yes we certainly do. And some confusing ones too. I remember the teacher at school (now this was many years ago!) saying “Right children watch the board while I run through it.” Well I’m still waiting. Or the simple word “stand”. “I won’t stand for that.” “I’ll stand you a pint”.”Stand up straight”.”Put it on the stand”. Glad I’m not teaching people how to speak English.

  1. ๐Ÿ™‚ Some very true observations, David! The English language is a strange animal at the best of times! I love it, but I think it would be a hard job teaching it to foreign students. Have you seen the Two Ronnies sketch about the Four Candles and the O’s? Google for a giggle – it’s brilliant! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Jo. I had a look at the Two Ronnies sketch. It was very good indeed especially when they got to “peas”. I’m sure they used to try and make each other laugh during these sketches and at one point Ronnie Corbett is clearly struggling to keep control.


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