Tag Archives: oxymorons

Traffic Favorites

During the holiday season “clip shows” pop up, presumably to give those involved in creating them some time with their families. Grammarian in the City is no different. I’ve just returned from vacation, where I occasionally snapped photos of ridiculous signs for use in future posts. While working through jet lag, I’m recombining bits of old posts of some of my favorite traffic signs, such as . . .







The word “oxymoron” was invented for situations like this one — especially the last two syllables, which are reserved for the sign-posters, who want you to stop and not stop at the same intersection — which, by the way, is in front of the United Nations, where contradictory statements occur with some regularity.

And then there’s . . .

If you’re a truck needing Weight Watchers, you can drive on this street as long as you don’t get an “overweight permit,” which I presume is some sort of legal document. Thus this sign tells you to break the law or stay off Park Avenue.

And for those of you who drive taxis . . .

From this sign I assume that taxis with more than one passenger can go anywhere, but if your destination is above “46 St” or you have a crowd in the back seat, you’re out of luck.


I’ve always been fascinated by oxymorons –  phrases that appear to contradict themselves, such as “jumbo Shrimp” and “ground pilot.” My favorite is the single-word oxymoron “sanction,” which means both “impose a penalty” and “give official approval.”  I propose extending the definition to include signs that fall into the category I call “visual oxymorons.” I see plenty in New York City. Have a look at this photo, which my husband snapped at a chain store:

To leave or not to leave, that is the question.

To leave or not to leave, that is the question.









I’m wondering whether Jean-Paul Sartre, author of “No Exit,” is responsible for this sign. Or perhaps Joseph Heller, who wrote “Catch 22”? The door on the right, which doesn’t appear in the photo, sports an “enter” sign. So at least you know which door you can use to not exit.

Here’s another beautiful example of illogic:

To whom?

To whom?


“Wholesale” generally refers to buyers who order a large quantity of merchandise and then sell the stuff to the public after a considerable markup. Nothing wrong with that; everyone has to make a living. In NYC’s Garment District, where many storefronts display samples of their wares to buyers from around the country, signs near the door often specifically bar the general public and advise that they are “wholesale only” sites. Not this store. You can shop there if  . . . well, under what circumstances can you shop there?  Note that the sign doesn’t say, “Wholesale prices for the general public,” which would make sense. The alternative wording has middle-marketers engaging in the business tactic known as “loss-leading.” They forgo profits on some items (those sold at wholesale prices) in order to attract customers, who would perhaps select other, more expensive stuff in addition to the bargain merchandise. Questionable business practice this may be, but at least the meaning is clear.

I could post more examples of visual oxymorons (and have – check out “And in Confusion” (http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?p=769). Instead, I invite you to snd me photos of oxymorons you’ve spotted (grammarianinthecity@outlook.com) . Use “photo” in the subject line.