Signs of the times

Last week, we went to visit family in Netanya, a 30 minute drive from Tel Aviv.  Ordering lunch, the waitress informed us that the trout came with potato purée, rice or chips — and which would we like, please?  This prompted a smart-aleck query from yours truly as to whether the chips were just spicy or very spicy.  She looked a little taken aback but I was able to explain.  I had looked carefully at the menu and read the English side (as I am wont to do) and it distinctly said that the choice of sides included, as we had been informed, “potato purée, rice or French fires“.  I thought it sort of amusing because there’s nothing that amuses me more than misspelt or confusing signage.  It also annoys me because it illustrates sloppiness.  It’s as if the proof reader, if he exists at all, was blind.

In the previous post, I showed a sign intimating that somewhere further down the road there was a humped zebra waiting to cross (probably alongside the fabled chicken).  This was misleading enough to send me through London looking for said zebra and I even reported that I had found one.  However, I didn’t think it sufficiently misleading to believe that someone might think it real — but, apparently, I was wrong!

All this reminds me of a true story to which I was witness over 35 years ago.  I was en route to the annual meeting of the Association of Irish Geographers, which was being held over a weekend in Limerick, about 220km southwest of Dublin. I was a passenger in a car driven by a friend and we set out from Dublin. An hour and a half or so into the trip, I noticed a a road sign that read “Limerick — 90” so I reckoned on another hour or so.  Then, as we continued further down the main road, my eyes and brain were struck by a sign that read “Limerick 120″.  This, of course, prompted me to ask of my friend, the driver, the perfectly logical question as to the direction we were travelling — to or from.  The signs certainly pointed to Limerick and we hadn’t U-turned but the distances seemed to suggest something else.  Naturally, the answer was perfectly logical — when you’re in Ireland: “The country’s going metric and they change the old road signs as they rust!”  Really, it’s a true story!!!

What prompted me to write this piece was a sign I came across the other morning while out walking in North Tel Aviv.  When I have a camera in my hand I am reasonably observant — in a strictly secular sense —as I’m on the lookout for pictures.  Walking along Yirmiyahu Street from Hayarkon to Dizengoff Streets, I saw this large, glaring sign advertising the imminent opening of a new business, which apparently will help you add some glamour to your appearance, if not to your life.  As I looked at it, I couldn’t help but laugh — and inwardly scream — at the same time.  I mean, what is this squad going to do to your hair after they “dese” it?  

Glam Squad

Perhaps it’s hair design or — er — dressing with the “e” and the “r” gone missing.  Who knows?  And who knows what the victims might look like after they’ve been through the desing machine?

Special hairstyles 3Special hairstyles 2Special hairstyles 5StackedA shock to the system1

Or perhaps, in the de luxe treatment you might be glammed up to look like this?  

British Library face

Or this?  


Who knows?  But given the accuracy of the sign, anything could happen!

There was another sign a couple of years ago that also caught my eye.  It didn’t actually say where the project is but one assumes that some of them have a view of the Mediterranean somewhere in Tel Aviv.  But what did strike me was not the ad as a whole but the spelling of what was apparently being marketed, printed in [very] large capital letters, and which made me wonder about the quality of the construction in what was being advertised.

Am I too skeptical about things?  Am I a cynic?  Who knows — and who really cares? However, I can understand errors occasionally creeping into small print — French fires, indeed — but in the things that really stand out — unforgivable.

Last apartmensts

Spelling errors in street signage, too, is unpardonable.  This apparently alcohol-flavoured street is located around the corner from where we live.  Actually, it stands out because it’s the only one of several signs along the street that is incorrectly spelled, so I suppose the late Justice Brandeis might not be too upset.


I’m not so sure that Mayor Dizengoff would have been pleased with this variant of his name at the junction of his street with Ben-Yehuda. On the other hand, it is not too far from Hebrew convention in which the vowel sounds are not transcribed at all!


I like signs to be straight and to the point, leaving you little room for guessing what it is they want to tell you — such as these from the West End of London — even though the message isn’t always heeded. 


CPM Parking

Now that’s telling you!

Then, there are signs that are not wrongly spelled at all — just confusing.  I’ve been puzzling over the meaning of this sign in Tel Aviv Port for several years now.  I think I understand half of what it is trying to say but the other half confounds me entirely.  The Hebrew says “Entry of vehicles and motorcycles forbidden”.  That more or less takes care of the north and east of the sign — but the rest?  Your guess is as good or as bad as mine!

Tel AvivPark & Port Tel Aviv

Finally, there’s a sign I see in London that always nonplusses me.  There’s a fast food chain called Yo! Sushi.  Its signs are all over the place but any time I look at it, what is see is the four Hebrew letters יפני, which as any Talmudic scholar will tell you is Hebrew for “Japanese”.  So, what I want to know is: Is it crypto-kosher?




5 thoughts on “Signs of the times

  1. ilana zinguer says:

    the wonderfull hairdressings are so unexpected!! and exceptional!
    it seems contradictory but the woman with the red hair and the red chale is very beautiful. The fire itself. .

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