Tag Archives: silly signs

Necessary Information

In colonial New England, the “necessary” was the room where you took care of necessary bodily functions — in other words, the toilet, restroom, lavatory, bathroom, latrine, powder room — pick your favorite term. (Off-topic but interesting: Why are there so many words for the same place?) The people in charge of these facilities appear to believe that they have to supply information to those who use them, as you see in this sign, which states what I would have thought was fairly obvious:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, is there someone out there who thinks leaving the door open is standard procedure? I should point out that this restroom is right next to the eating area of a small café. You can hear people munching through the closed (and locked) door when you’re inside, and I guess the people outside occasionally hear you. So is a reminder really necessary? Plus, the first statement cries out for a direct object (“before you use the facilities” or something similar). I’d also like to see a period after “Thank you,” which isn’t, I admit, a sentence but seems to need closure.

Onward and ungrammatically upward, as in capital letters:

The sign wants to direct your throwing arm (actually, hand, according to the illustration), but the sign writer throws capital letters around at random. Also note the absence of a period at the end of the sentence — which really is a sentence.

One more:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aren’t restrooms constructed for “conducting personal hygiene practices”? Isn’t that the whole point? This beauty, by the way, sat atop a sink. I washed my hands anyway. I hope everyone else does, too. It’s necessary.

 

Bad Jelly

A while ago a friend sent me a photo that perfectly captures the national mood, or so it seems to me judging by what I read in the paper:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m in a “gripe” mood also. So settle in with a little jelly, fellow complainers, and express your own annoyances. Here are three of mine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has long been my position that ‘n (intended as a contraction of “and”) is a grunt, not a word. Here it appears with double quotation marks. My advice: If you’re going to butcher a contraction, at least use the proper punctuation to do so. In this case, place an apostrophe before and after the n to indicate that a and d have been dropped.

Next gripe:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a grammarian, not a mathematician, but shouldn’t “Three Cheese Mac & Cheese” be made with three types of cheese? Yet the second line specifies that the dish is “made with American and Swiss Cheese.” I checked the ingredient list, which lists no other identifiable dairy product. I thought about crossing out “three” and penciling in “two,” but I decided that customers, unlike label makers, can count.

One more:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t usually bother with spelling errors, but this one I can’t ignore. Unless they’re trying to exclude everyone except Chicago and Boston baseball professionals, the word is “socks.” Second, even if the sign does refer to the White Sox and Red Sox, you don’t need the final “s.” “Sox” is a plural term. Which makes me wonder what you call a single major leaguer from one of these teams. I can’t imagine an announcer introducing “the next sock at bat.” Baseball fans, feel free to enlighten me, despite the fact that I’ve clearly eaten too much “gripe jelly.”  I think I’ll stick with plain peanut butter for a while, at least until I get my perspective back.

Oxymorons, Again

Consistency seems to be out of style these days. A while ago I posted a couple of signs that contradict themselves (See “Oxymorons” at http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?p=1195). I keep finding more, such as this one, which hangs over the entrance to a parking garage:

Quik park slowly. Got that?

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, I know that “Quik” is part of the name, but you’d think the owner would move “quik” away from “slowly,” if only to keep the attention of a potential customer who’s in a hurry. And is it too much to ask for a “c” before the “k”?

A penny to anyone who can explain what “shop and save for free” means, in the context of bakeware or anything else:

Shop for free?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not to mention whether (and where) you should brake your vehicle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or where you should shop, and for what:

A sidewalk inside?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Either the slabs of cement are ten bucks each or the store is having the equivalent of a garage sale in the dining room. Either way, something’s odd. Bottom line: People often think we New Yorkers are rude (and sometimes, we are). But mostly we’re just confused.

Logical Questions

Signs and labels typically hit you with a message that you can absorb quickly. But this quality comes with a built-in problem; you have to infer the context and the implied or possible extension of what’s actually there. Which brings me to these signs, and the logical questions they inspire. The first is a label on a soda bottle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dieters’ delight, right? But why highlight “per 8 fl oz serving”? Do 4 ounces have half the calorie count? If so, what’s half of zero? What about 16 ounces? Does the number jump to, say, 1000 calories because the calories from the first 8 ounces are packed into the next 8, the way a “first thirty days free” subscription suddenly increases to $40/month thereafter? I bought this beverage anyway because I wanted club soda, but I would have been more comfortable with a label reading “no calories because it’s just water and a couple of minerals.” Honesty being the best policy and all.

Next up is a Valentine’s Day special, a bit late:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I understand “cookie cakes,” which I imagine combine two food groups, cookies and cakes, similar to “cronuts,” the food-fad that mixed doughnuts and croissants.  No need to discuss “heart shaped,” which is obvious. What gets me about the sign is the asterisk and its explanation. What on earth does “full legal available” mean?  If the cookie cakes were available until “Feb 21,” would they be totally illegal? Half legal and half illegal? Unavailable?

Last but not least:

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first I thought that “pick-app” was, in fact, an app. And it is! Download this code, and you’ve got a lifetime supply of pick-up lines to throw at prospective romantic partners. (No kidding. Really.) But if the sign refers to that app, how does “delivery” fit in? Does the app deliver the line, so you don’t have to say anything? Or does “delivery” refer to results —  a date or a phone number?

Theories welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bossy

New York signs make a valiant effort to boss people around. Valiant, but futile, as New Yorkers are not known for their unquestioning obedience. Yet the effort continues. Call it faith, if you’re an optimist, or insanity, if you’re not. Here’s an example of bossy New York, in the primary image I chose for this blog:

NYC Block Box Sign

 

I often wonder whether non-New Yorkers understand this sign, which directs cars to stay out of the intersection (“the box”) when the traffic light turns red. New Yorkers decode it easily; they just choose to ignore it. Effective or not,  this sign is one of my favorites, rivaled only by the classic “Don’t even think of parking here” that sadly has disappeared from the streets of New York. Not that drivers paid attention to that one either.

Recently I snapped photos of two lists of no-nos. Here’s one from a city bus:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Except for the first (littering), riders mostly obey the other prohibitions on this list. I don’t credit the sign, though, because in this day and age, hardly anyone assumes that smoking is allowed on public transit. Spitting is rare because of the gross-out factor.  The last prohibition seems to be a leftover from the boom-box era, when teenagers lugging thirty pounds of technology blasted thumpingly loud music into their fellow riders’ ears.  Even then, those devices were more often playing CD tracks, not radio broadcasts.

The next sign was posted by the management of an apartment building:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I saw this sign, no one was around, so no one was noncompliant. So is this an effective sign? In my view, no, because of its content.  Maybe a couple of kids gave up ball-playing, but that’s probably because they’d been scolded by someone who didn’t want to listen to the thump of a tennis ball or a Spaldeen (a pink ball essential to stickball, a NY street sport that no one plays anymore because of all the Uber vans clogging the road). Nor does the sign stop “loitering.” That activity disappears naturally because if you stand in one spot, a preoccupied pedestrian is likely to knock you over. Side point: Why specify “sitting in front of building”? Perhaps you’re allowed to sit next to or behind the structure? Or on top of it, if you can get past the doorman? I  agree with the ban on peddling. It’s a well known fact that one sidewalk cart, unopposed, spawns ten more each day, each of which in turn gives rise to ten more, leading to . . . well, you can imagine. But peddlng is, in my opinion, less of a problem for this building than pedaling — bikes criss-crossing the sidewalk and terrifying everyone moving on actual feet.

But carriages? True, strollers increasingly resemble Hummers. I’ve been kneecapped by more than a few baby carriages myself. But seriously — how can you tell parents that their baby’s primary mode of transportation is not welcome?  You may have noticed that the list ends with “under penalty of law.” Illegal baby carriages. Who knew? Unless they’re referring to a Jane Austen sort of carriage? Or the horse-drawn ones that circle Central Park? Not likely.

It seems to me that New Yorkers, with their ingenuity and preference for hanging out (loitering?) on the cutting edge, should be able to come up with a better “don’t” list. Mine isn’t complete, but so far I’ve got cell-phone blathering in crowded areas (especially when it involves relationships, recent surgery, or job complaints),  texting while walking, and bicycling on the sidewalk. What’s on your list? Feel free to send it in. First prize is a boom box with an AM/FM connection, which you can use whenever you sit next to a “no radio playing” sign.

Take a break from debate

Pretty much everyone I know has been debating The Debate since it ended, analyzing every facial expression, body movement, and comment. It’s time to take a break!  Apply your analytical skills to these signs and answer the questions that follow. Send me your answers, but don’t expect any prizes. Sign number one:

Not an ordinary palm.

No ordinary palms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Questions: Is your palm special? Is it worth ten dollars?

On to sign number two:

Shorten your doctors here.

Shorten your doctors here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What sort of alteration does this shop offer to professionals? Does it nip in a billowy lawyer, cut up a surgeon, or dye a mortician? OR – Do they think other shops employ amateur tailors?

And sign number three, from an awning on a busy Manhattan street:

 

Serving Manhattan's farm animals.

Serving Manhattan’s farm animals.

 

Does East 74th Street qualify as “country”? Do the proprietors believe that farmers will bring their livestock there? Or do the proprietors need “professional alteration” (see sign number three)?

Now for my favorite:

What's a "tworl"?

What’s a “tworl”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is this a line from “Jabberwocky”? If not, what does it mean?

Odds

A quick search of The New York Times yields 137, 513 hits for the word “odd.” The earliest appeared in 1851, and the word shows up regularly thereafter – never more frequently than in this, well, odd presidential campaign. But this post isn’t about politics. It’s about the odd expressions I’ve seen lately, such as the one on this sign:

Non-renewal?

Non-renewal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my apartment-rental years, I signed many leases, but never a “non-renewal” one. I wonder what this sort of lease stipulates. Your lease extends to never? Your new monthly rent is zero dollars? (See http://www.grammarianinthecity.com/?p=1477 for other nonsensical “zero” signs.)

Here’s another odd expression:

Specialized?

Specialized?

I saw this on the side of a truck. Apparently, the contractor “specialized” in bathroom renovations. Good to know, if you’re seeking a renovation in the past. Lacking a handy time-travel gadget, though, potential customers may see a problem here.

One more:

Apostrophe? Preposition?

Missing apostrophe? Preposition?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This sign screams “scam,” and not because of its odd wording, which I presume is the result of omitting the preposition “for” (I buy all cars for cash) and not an apostrophe (I buy all cars’ cash). But aside from grammar, who can buy “all cars”? And how much cash would it take? What would the buyer do with them? Odd indeed!

 

Thanks for nothing

Recently I took advantage of New York City’s IDNYC program, which gave me an official photo ID and a raft of free membership offers to some of the city’s best museums. In redeeming one of those membership offers at an institution I won’t embarrass by naming, I received an email thanking me for my “contribution of $0.00” and telling me that donations such as mine “support the work of the museum.” If that’s true, the museum is probably nearing bankruptcy. Continue reading

Magritte in NYC

On this Bastille Day, I am pleased to report that Rene Magritte is alive and well and creating art in New York City:

"Ceci n'est pas une 'bike stand.'"

“Ceci n’est pas une ‘bike stand.'”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the sake of comparison, here is one of Magritte’s earlier works:

To see the original, go to Los Angeles.

To see the original, go to Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you’re wondering about the power of art, I staked out this spot for a while, to see whether a bicycle would be chained to it.  New Yorkers do sometimes interpret a prohibition as a dare. But no bikes appeared. Either the sign is very effective or the glowering shop owner, who was standing next to this tree every time I passed, scares cyclists into compliance. Either way, enjoy Bastille Day. (Especially you, Don and Avram, my art historian friends.)

Business Bites and other follies

I recently ate at a local pub, but instead of concentrating on the food (which was actually quite good), I spent the time trying to figure out the meaning of these words, which appeared in large type on the menu: “Business Bites Lunch.” There was no punctuation in the original, so I’m assuming this is not a sentence about pin-striped-suiters gnawing on midday meals. The only alternative meaning I could come up with was that “business” is biting into the time allotted for lunch.  Your ideas welcome.

And then there’s this sign:

Which executive would you like to eat for lunch?

Which executive would you like to eat for lunch?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading