Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I spotted this story a week or two ago, but what with one thing and another I didn't get round to posting it. Good news, then, that The Telegraph has just run a reminder for me of the new book out which has collated photographs of bizarre signs from around the world. Not only are these often very funny, they are also very interesting from a language point of view. Natch...

Firstly, as many of the laughs are the product of things lost in translation between a local language and English, they give us an interesting window on translation, second language acquisition, and on how languages other than English construct the world in words. However, plenty of the signs in the book are written in English by English speakers in English speaking countries, and these are twice as funny. They also give us plenty of material for pragmatic analysis: it's all about the breakdown of the shared assumptions we expect of signs. We largely take those assumptions for granted, but these signs make us conscious of a level of language that can otherwise seem invisible.

Check out the story and the signspotting website (click on the 'view signs' tab on the homepage). Er, and if anyone was wondering what to get me for Christmas...

Getting lost in translation



At 3:58 am, Blogger Aulina Chan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:00 am, Blogger Aulina Chan said...

If you enjoy the laugh out of signspotting, you might also fall off your computer desk after visiting here:

Disclaimer: I don't own it and this isn't splog.

Thanks for your entries. They have really lightened up my boring office days. (Not that I believe you'd be as nerdy / geeky as I am.)

(sorry for leaving a deleted comment, but I just spotted a typo.)

At 10:48 am, Blogger Rhys Wynne said...

There's also a group on flickr with a collection of signs in Wlaes where there's been a mis-spelling of the Welsh version. Some classics include

men's holes as a stranlation of manholes


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