Only where I live

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:

Don't go it alone - this lift demands "3 Persons Only"

Don’t go it alone – this lift demands “3 Persons Only”

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Only at Luton Airport

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”.

Badvert double whammy

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”…


Too much toothpaste!

J and I were having a clear out the other day and realised we have an unnecessarily large stockpile of toothpaste! As if that’s not rock-and-roll enough, I noticed that Colgate has mis-spelled “anti-bacterial” on its teeny 25ml tube. Maybe they should brush up on their proof reading?

Long line of parallel toothpaste tubes

Too much toothpaste?

25ml Colgate toothpaste tube showing mis-spelling "antibacerial"

The "i" is dotted, but where's the "t" in anti-bacterial?

Bizarre Bournemouth

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?

Lift sign showing word "anemergency"

"anemergency" - situation normal?

Break Glass For Key” – but where is the key?

Fire point showing label "break glass for key" but containing no key

The key; the secret?

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”?

Fire exit sign pointing up stairs from 2nd floor of hotel

Up and away - from the 2nd floor?

Dogs must be carried

London Underground sign: Dogs must be carried

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.

Update 23/7/2010: A timely article in today’s Metro about Batman – the reading greyhound. Also you can find lots more reading dogs here.

Unlimited* marketing reaches Infinity*

Coloured infinity symbol

Infinity: unlimited, untouchable (and shampoo-free)

The shampoo bottle was the last straw. “Touchably soft hair” it promises.  Marketing claims and brand names become ever more contrary and vacuous.  Or perhaps I’m becoming more attuned to them (not to say grumpy!).

Let’s look at a trio of my current favourites:

  1. That shampoo bottle: “Touchably soft hair”.  Touchable means “able to be touched”.  If my hair were not touchable already, how would I apply the shampoo?  Does the bottle come with an applicator for people with fearsome, untouchable hair?  No.  So the shampoo is for people who already have touchably soft hair?
  2. Unlimited mobile data:  A few months ago, I took out a phone contract promising “unlimited” data.  Hidden in the small print is an “acceptable use policy”.  Unlimited means “limitless or without bounds”, so the use of the word is entirely incompatible with any small-print restriction.  Fast forward to the present; now the telcos are rushing to hide the word “unlimited” as their definitely-not-unlimited network capacity comes under pressure from exponential mobile data growth by expectant consumers.  Why didn’t they just make the limits clear to start with?  Is “500MB per month” too abstract/complicated for consumers?  I don’t think so.  We all cope with speedometers and fuel gauges in cars, and, if we don’t already know, we soon learn that the harder/further we drive the sooner the fuel runs out.  We could easily comprehend the equivalent gauges for data – showing us how much data allowance we have left, and how quickly we’re using it up.  If people didn’t realise that video chews data faster than music, they’d soon learn.  The networks could have raised “data awareness” by ensuring users have easy access to comprehensible data gauges.  Instead, they chose to accelerate themselves into a capacity problem by burying the truth under the “unlimited” headline claims.
  3. “Infinity” broadband: Infinity is the name of the next generation, optical-fibre-based broadband offering from the UK’s former state-owned telco.  I wonder whether the marketeers behind “unlimited” also came up with “Infinity”?  Are we to believe that this new offering will be the end of the road for UK broadband advancement?  I don’t think so.  But what comes after Infinity?  Nothing, by definition.  So what would I choose as the name?  How about “Lightning”?  It has the requisite super-speed connotations and embraces the word “light” as a nod to the shiny new optical fibre underpinnings.  The products could be named Lightning 40, Lightning 100 etc., where the number denotes the speed of connection – which (barring a dictionary re-write) will never reach Infinity.  Ever.

Update 1/7/2010: Just found an interesting round-up of Broadband Britain which picks up on spurious marketing claims.

* Subject to limits