Signage Gone Wrong

Yeah, I'm kind of a boring tourist. Something wild and crazy could be happening to the left or to the right, but I'm taking a picture of a sign because "its" (possessive) is spelled with an apostrophe. When it all comes down to it, there are aspects of life that are much more important, so this is just a bit of fun for my editor friends out there. Disclaimer: I have the highest respect for my fellow Earthlings; in fact, my cup of brotherly love is sloshing over its (possessive: no apostrophe!) brim. I'm sure if I were required to create a sign in, say, Thai or Hindi, I'd probably make some hilarious mistakes; they'd probably even be adorable. I'd also buy a native speaker a beer and get my sign corrected.

As a teacher of English as a second language, I know this one is hard. Non-native speakers don't always hear the difference between of and off. I like this one a lot. It takes the bossy imperative "Take off your shoes" and transforms it into a nicer, friendlier "Take of your shoes" as if my shoes are in that pot and I can take as much of them as I want. I like that. Thank you, Koh Samui, for being so generous with my shoes.

But what if I want to wear a bikini or a halter top tentatively, which would most definitely be the case? Or demurely? I'd like to think of myself as a demure clothes wearer. Don't get me started on that blue sign. What the hell is a towei? And forget the Oxford comma. What about commas at all? And do they have only one scarf? Ick: bacteria farm. On another subject, this sign borders on soft porn. I can imagine old guys staring at it for days.

I'd like to take the lone apostrophe in the sign above this one and insert it here. This sign is, as the sign says, from the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka, and the city is relatively free of litter.

OK, there is generally a problem when it comes to plurals--I get that. This sign is also from the world heritage city of Kandy, Sri Lanka, where considerably more than one foreign guest come to visit a temple that preserves one of The Buddha's teeth. 

Um, this is kind of scary actually, and I'm not only talking about the missing space after the comma. Please tell me Othopedic surgery is a thing. When I looked it up on one of the alternatives Webster gave me was "spotted dick". Hee hee hee. That made my morning. Seriously though, wouldn't an orthopedist know how to spell his/her own profession in English? Also on Koh Samui, Thailand.

First of all, there is obvious movement going on here. You can see pages flapping and bowing. Some are leaning forward. OK, most of these magazines are indeed stationary. Those at the bottom even have a restraining strap; they must be restless. In defense of this sign-maker, native speakers make this mistake fairly often--stationary for stationery. I've seen this mistake in the UK as well.

This is a beautiful sign, and the music piped into this elevator is just as pretty. While 99% of this is perfect English--playlist not play list and soundscape not sound scape--the most glaring thing about this sign, notwithstanding the obnoxious lighting, is the mistake at the top: "A NEW WAGE". Ahhhhhhhhh. You make a beautiful sign, put it in hundreds of hotels around the world, and you translate Nouvelle Vague as New Wage. It really is a pretty sign, though.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the 2015 recipient of the Ginosko Literary Journal's award for flash fiction. His work appears in Indiana Review, Eclectica Magazine, Night Train, Camroc Press Review, Contrary and over 100 other journals. Read his book reviews in [PANK), The Lit Pub, Necessary Fiction and more. A former finalist at Glimmer Train, Allen is also a multiple nominee for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Originally from Tennessee, Allen now splits his time between Munich and Dublin. He is the managing editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.


  1. Love these, Chris. I'm a great lover of quirky signs - although I tend to note them down rather than photograph them. One of my all time favourites was a roadside sign in Kenya advertising souvenirs and crafts by 'Masai Worriers'.

    1. Hi, Susan! Thanks for stopping by. Love Masai Worriers. Maybe it's not a typo after all. Who knows. This might be a thing. Hahahahahahaha

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