AT THE MALL to do some shopping, I stepped into a lift with one of my kids.
She was the right height to read the little sign on the panel:
“Children must be accompanied in this elevator.”
She gazed up at me and whispered with guilty excitement: “This lift is PG-13!”
Whenever the topic of silly signs comes up, everyone has a tale to tell. Indeed, I firmly believe that most people go travelling around Asia not to take a break, but to snap pictures of signs which say:
“Please Do Not Take Weapons Into This Toilet.”
A favorite was one seen in a hotel in Vietnam which told guests:
“No sex or fighting.”
What about married couples? You’re talking about our two main activities.
Hong Kong has many useless signs. One used to hang at an expressway building site in the New Territories, saying:
“Drivers who collide with this pylon should beware.”
Going back to our oft-repeated point that Asian English is more memorable than traditional English, reader Nonie Eu, a mother of two, sent me a photograph of a sign from China, which said:
“Offer Seats to the Old, Weak, Sick, Crippled and Gravid.”
Who’s Gravid? No, not some decrepit fellow with weak knees. It’s a Jurassic-era English word for “pregnant”.
Nonie, a Chinese TV presenter, also sent in a photo of a rather poignant sign on a wall in China. It said:
“Dying right here is strictly prohibited.”
When discussing wacky signs, readers regularly make the point that some signs which look like spelling mistakes are deliberate. They are “tongue-in-cheek, making use of and subverting the idea that we're poor at English,” said a reader named Sharanya, referring to one in Thailand. “The ‘Broken English Spoken Perfectly Here’ is quite a giveaway.”
Reader Steve Dore was also suspicious of that particular sign. He said: “Surely it should have said, ‘Broken English Speaked Good Here’?”
In my files is a letter from reader Fred Gray who noticed that Hong Kong trams have signs saying: "Do not lean out of window".
He would prefer signs in this part of the world to have a more East Asian lilt to them:
“Man who lean out of tram window need head examined.”
A favorite item in my signpost files is one that reader Mei Hardwick saw stuck into the ground at a park in Beijing. It says:
It’s not clear what you may be tempted to dabble in nor why you shouldn’t. Perhaps it’s just a general piece of philosophical advice.
Of course, there are lots of funny signs outside Asia too. An American friend told me about a serendipitous pairing of road signs in her home country:
“SLOW CHILDREN” and “NO HUNTING”.
They were probably meant to be read separately, but they were in Texas, so you never know.
Meanwhile, I have several times been sent photographs of a sign at the check-in desk of China Eastern Airlines:
“Please check in animals and alcoholics.”
So not only does my dog have to go in a cage in the luggage compartment, but so does my Uncle Joseph.
Actually, that’s not a bad idea. At least my kids and I will be able to enjoy the flight.
IN OTHER NEWS…
Grandpa, love you philosophical comment about the value of money. I also liked your note about that place in France (and others in UK etc) which have their own local currency reminds me of Gandhi, whose vision was that villages should be self-sustaining communities. He got it right so long ago!
Peter, thanks for the point you make, which is pretty much the same as I made in the original posting – barter is better than currency in many ways.
Ram, thanks for missing me. Jesus managed three days while I was off for five. I need to up my game…
Readers who live in Hong Kong: I searched everywhere for chocolate Easter eggs (as above) for my wife/ kids this year (we gave up chocolate for lent so would REALLY have appreciated them) but could not find any. Anyone know what happened to them? Peter, did you eat them all?