This entry was posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 3:55 pm and is filed under All Posts, Usability and Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Elchanan sent me the following story:
LONDON (AFP) — Officials in Wales mistakenly erected a road sign that read “I am not in the office at the moment” in Welsh after a translation mix-up.
The sign originally said in English, “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only,” but when Swansea Council officials sent it to be translated, they received an automated e-mail written in Welsh that read: “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.”
Unaware of the actual meaning of the e-mail, officials had the sign printed and put up near a supermarket, only realising their mistake when Welsh speakers pointed it out.
All road signs in Wales are required to be written in English and Welsh.
“Our attention was drawn to the mistranslation of a sign at the junction of Clase Road and Pant-y-Blawd Road,” a Swansea Council spokesman said.
“We took it down as soon as we were made aware of it and a correct sign will be installed as soon as possible.”
I think part of what makes silly or erroneous signs so funny is their official-ness: a printed sign has an authority and seriousness that we learn to obey from a very young age. An error on an official sign is like a policeman with a button open — a humanity and vulnerability is revealed unexpectedly and inappropriately.
Reminds one of the well-publicized story of a Chinese restaurant’s English sign, posted specially for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing:
[Images via Neonascent]