Sign Language

Clever names excite me. Witty headlines delight me.

When travelling around Hong Kong or, indeed anywhere in the world, I like to take a moment to read restaurant names, signs and slick newspaper headlines.

A personal favourite of mine was the newspaper headline I read after French actor Gérard Depardieu was busted urinating on a plane (but not in the toilet):

“Oui? Non!”

Thai Restaurants around the world invariably make use of ingenious names:

Bow-Thai, Thai-riffic, En-Thai-Sing, Thai-Tanic, Thai-One-On. Seriously, Siam eatery monikers are an endless conga line of comic genius.

And then there is “Chinglish” – a curious mix of Chinese English. Here in Asia, signwriters and Government departments must use the cheapest translation service possible when putting up signs in English. A cursory trawl through Google could keep you amused for hours. For example:

In Mainland China, you don’t “keep off the grass”, you “Show mercy to the green lives under your foot”

In Hong Kong, there is a street called “Rednaxela Terrace”, and I confess, I only realized this when it was pointed out to me: It’s “Alexander” spelt backwards. Apparently the work of a non-English speaking signwriter back in 1901 – and the name stuck.

Going through the old Guangzhou Airport in China many years ago, this is what confronted me at Immigration:

“Prohibited Articles – “Fresh fruit, Eggplants, Hot Pipers, and a tomato ”.

Sadly, at the new Guangzhou airport, horny Scotsmen and their subversive tomatoes seem to have now been deemed safe to enter China.

Other countries are not immune either.

While my wife and I trekked the Annapurna circuit in Nepal some time ago, we spent a night in the “Hotel Superb View”; not because it had “Incredible 270° views”, no, we stayed there because according to the billboard sign, it was: “Not recommended by Lonely Planet Guide Book”.

Some signs while grammatically correct, just defy belief. When I lived in Africa, there was a road sign at the entrance to the Hilane National Park in Swaziland that announced:

Cyclists & pedestrians: Beware of Lion and Elephant

Ummm, Ok, thanks. I’ll keep a sharp eye out for them.

But some signs just give too much information. Down the road from where I live, there is a restaurant:

“Royal Thai Style Seafood & Dessert Fusion Restaurant & Pub”

As my wife said to me, “I wonder if they do massages as well?”

About Tim

I'm an expat dad, living in Hong Kong. Being a parent, especially a dad, is simply fraught with danger. Mums seem to have this built-in radar for trouble and danger - I do not. http://beingdadinasia.com - all about my life, being dad. http://achipofftheoldblog - all about the funny and strange things I see. View all posts by Tim

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