Avid readers of my blog will know that I dislike silly signs. The worst offenders I celebrate here and then do my best to ignore. However, this week the issue of silly signs was brought so close to home that it really must not be ignored. One lift in my apartment block now bears this sign inside and out:
Here’s another example of a misplaced “only” messing up the meaning of an important-looking sign.
The photo was taken in a public area of Luton Airport. As a departing passenger, I was evidently in the wrong place, because the sign required “Passengers Only Beyond This Point” and I was not beyond that point.
What they really meant was “Only Passengers Beyond This Point”. For greater ease and accuracy, they could have simply written two words: “Passengers Only”.
Seems to have been a week for bad adverts (or “badverts”, as I have decided to call them).
First I saw the Nature Valley advert, proclaiming “We wanted to increase deliciousness by 200%… So we put two bars in each pack”. How embarrassing that they messed up their percentages! It would have been safer to use words like “doubly delicious”, but they threw in a spurious statistic instead. Still, it got them lots of unexpected publicity.
Then I saw a puzzling proposition from Orange: “Free iPhone for just £25 a month”. Has inflation spiralled out of control? £25 a month seems steep for something which was free four words earlier. That can’t be right. Maybe they mean “free” as in freedom, so the handset is not locked to their network and is “jailbroken” so that it is freed from Apple’s functionality shackles? No, and No. And yet freedom seems a reasonable expectation from a company whose parent is called “Everything Everywhere”…
I stayed in Bournemouth recently for my Stag Weekend. We had a great time, and as an extra bonus I spied a handful of delightful little idiosyncrasies in our hotel.
“Anemergency” – the missing space inverts the meaning (like aerobic vs anaerobic), so when there is no emergency (i.e. under normal circumstances) people should sound the alarm in the lift?
“Break Glass For Key” – but where is the key?
Fire Exit Upstairs? Does it really make sense to install a fire exit sign on a 2nd floor hallway door that opens, swapping the meaning from “down” to “up”?
It’s an oldie, but a goodie; the sign at the entrance to escalators on the tube, saying “Dogs must be carried”. Seldom do I see anyone carrying a dog, but I do see lots of dogless travellers using escalators. So, either most people are flouting the rule, or the sign is barking. Obviously it’s the latter. But what *should* the sign say,to convey its real meaning (if you are travelling with a dog, carry it on the escalator to prevent injury), ideally in fewer words?
- “Any dogs must be carried” – Maybe a little better – but it’s longer.
- “Carry your dog” – Not quite. What if your dog is at home, or you’re travelling with a dog that’s not yours?
- “Carry any dogs” – Better, but you should really only carry your own dog.
- “Dog? Carry it” – Almost – but any literate dogs reading the sign would be thoroughly confused!
- “Carry dogs” – Two words, active voice. At least as good as the original. Works for me.
Other suggestions welcome in the comments.
As my train pulled into King’s Cross, I spotted a serious-looking sign bearing the edict:
Electric Trains Only To Access Platform 0
A couple of questions struck me:
- Is King’s Cross the only station with a Platform 0?
- Why was my electric train (like many others) NOT pulling into Platform 0, disobeying the serious-looking sign?
It turns out there are other UK stations with a Platform 0: Edinburgh Haymarket and Cardiff Central at least. But I’m fairly sure King’s Cross is the only station with a Platform 0 AND a sign for Platform 9 3/4.
As for disobeying the serious-looking sign, I reckon the train driver was right to ignore the Ministry of Signs’ half-baked wording. Since Platform 0 is more enclosed than the other platforms, station management probably want to avoid pollution/fumes (e.g. from diesel trains) building up in the confined space. So, they want to restrict Platform 0 for use by electric trains only, but not prevent electric trains from using the other platforms. Sadly, the Ministry’s carelessly placed “only” fluffs both intentions.
A simple “Platform 0: Electric Trains Only” would have sufficed. But the Ministry ambiguated, consigning the poor placard to an enigmatic existence.
Today’s wordsmithing lesson inspired by the Ministry of Signs:
Say what you mean, then check you mean what you say!
Update 29/06/2010: Stockport also has a Platform 0 (thanks Oli!)