I’m very proud to be British, but sometimes do wonder whether my fellow-countrymen really think things through. I’m not talking about the easy stuff here, like domestic and foreign policy decisions, but the tough business of signage. Of course, there are those that make money from flogging twee or allegedly amusing signs. You get them for cars along the lines of, “Stupid person on board” or “Get any closer and we’ll need to marry”. We like to put them on mugs, bags and T-shirts “Keep calm and carry on shopping,” “Other way up”, “Mother in laws are for life, not just Christmas” – that kind of thing. But the signs that tickle me, and thereby qualify to be included in the august assembly of nutty notices, are those which are (probably) not intended to be amusing.
Spotting this law firm’s sign in a rainy Manchester street prompted a double-take. Taking it as face-value, because they are solicitors and possibly reasonably bright (not necessarily true, I know) I suppose they are at least being refreshingly candid. Perhaps other legal firms will be encouraged to own up too; we've always known they're out there, haven't we? But presumably someone has paid money for this - so wouldn’t it be disappointing to discover that what Tuckers offer is a 24 hour service for criminals?
Don’t take my word for it, these things are all around us. We know the obvious ones – “Heavy plant crossing,” conjuring up images of a giant cabbage sliming its way in front of your car. Or those yellow signs on the roadside that say “Delays until January” – and you’re immediately thinking to yourself that you can’t wait that long. When I was younger I used to giggle at “So-and-so – Family Butchers”.
“No dogs!” said the notice on the tobacconists’ door. I still remember my brother enquiring of the shopkeeper, a little wistfully – “Still out of dogs, then?”
We can probably take comfort from the certainty that Britain is not alone in this phenomenon. But should we extend the field to packaging? I’m wondering whether things like “May contain nuts” printed on the back of a packet of salted cashews (or a bottle of pickled squirrels) qualifies as a nutty notice. But I will leave you with a couple of peaches from the extremely sensible town of Kendal, in Cumbria. First, there was a shoe shop advertising a 3 for 2 offer. Really, you couldn’t make it up could you? But the winner was an emporium, which I later learned was some kind of dress agency, where you swap clothes you don’t like. The sign said, “We specialise in unwanted gifts and impulse purchases.” The urge to go in and say, “Excuse me, I have a sudden urge to buy something that nobody wants!” was almost too great. It is a huge regret that I never did; sadly, the shop has been closed and turned into something much less exciting. I have a photo of of the original sign somewhere but, irritatingly, can’t find it.
Anyway, it's all about accurate communication. "Back soon - out to lunch."