To Understand, Or Not To Understand

8 November 2007

I sometimes think I may be slightly dyslexic where street signs are concerned.  I very often have to think for a few seconds, or even minutes, to work out exactly what is meant.

At the moment, there are signs all over Sydney exhorting us to “Report Disabled Parking Cheats”.  Why should parking cheats with disabilities be picked out for special police attention?  But of course they don’t mean that.  They mean people who are illegally using parking facilities meant for the disabled.  In other words “Report Non-Disabled Parking Cheats”.

On Sydney buses there’s a sign I couldn’t quite understand when I first saw it.  In the area where wheelchairs can park, it says “Wheelchair brakes must be applied while the bus is in motion”.  I couldn’t see why the bus had to be moving before you could apply your brakes.  (A bit like the signs on trains which told us we couldn’t use the toilets when the train was in a station.) But again, of course, I’ve completely misunderstood.  You can APPLY the brakes whenever you want, but they MUST be ON when the bus is moving.

I think my favourite sign in Sydney is also to be found on the buses.  An order not to drink alcohol on the bus, with a lovely picture of a Martini glass and a wine bottle.  I presume that cocktail drinking on the bus in the rush hour had been a serious problem for the Sydney bus company and commuters. 



  1. I’m guessing that a picture of a flagon in a brown paper bag was considered less visually appealing… 😉

  2. Have you seen the signs painted on the road that say “lane one form”? Obviously I am reading the words in the reverse order, but that’s how they appear to me as they say:

  3. I live in Yorkshire, which has a lovely dialect, but has led to misunderstandings from time to time. “Oil” for example, isn’t something we go to war for, but a hole.

    Up here, “while” is often used to mean “until”. Eg: “He was at work while 8 o’clock”. The national rail company put some new stop/go lights on a line near York, with a sign saying “Stop while lights are red”. The southerners who put it there intended it to mean “Stop here for the duration of lights being on red”, but the local train drivers read it as “Stop UNTIL lights are red” and were gaily proceding on the red light, causing untold mayhem.

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