Saturday, March 17, 2007

QN ST STN 0.2m

Thomas and I were discussing sign posts the other day. He happened to point out how they can be obtuse to say the least. I noticed they often abbreviate road signs, but in a way that a native to the area can easily understand but that kind of defeats the purpose, because of course a native to the area already knows where things are. We spotted the sign I quote above for example in West Graham street. To me, a native Glaswegian, this sign is very obviously 'Queen Street station 0.2 miles', however to someone whose native language isn't English and who doesn't know the names of all the stations in Glasgow and who thinks internationally that m means metres, they must be stuck scratching their head!

Another of my favourites is the use of the word 'alight'. How many times do we use the verb 'to alight' when speaking? I mean you can hear it now, can't you? 'Where are you alighting today?' 'Oh I think I'll alight at Hillhead and go for a coffee in Tinderbox' - no one has ever said the word alight out loud, have they? And for that reason no one under 15 knows it, and no foreigners either, so why do we persist in using it on sign posts? 'Cowcaddens station - alight here for the Tenement House museum' what is wrong with 'Get off' every one would understand it then and actually end up in the correct place, rather than seeing this obscure word, puzzling over it, and finally (hopefully) getting off after guessing its potential meaning.
Am I the only person who hates silly signs? I speak some foreign languages. I like signs in those languages to be understandable - no bizarre abbreviations, no Shakespearean era vocabulary. Can't we do the same here?

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