Friday Funny: More Stupid Signage Stories

The offending sign. (Source: BBC News)
The offending sign. (Source: BBC News)

Earlier this year (April 2009), I wrote an article about a spelling error regarding Webster Lake, better known as Lake Chargoggagoggmanchaug-gagoggchaubunagungamaugg. This alphabet soup of a name is the primary reason tourist visit this quaint, but rather typical Connecticut town; they want to be photographed by signs displaying the words Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagog-gchaubunagungamaugg. Unfortunately, in several instances, the name had been spelling incorrectly. The original post is available here.

In Wales, the message conveyed in another road sign has caused a bit of a scandal. This is a classic case of taking something far too literally.

Here’s a summary of the story, courtesy of the BBC:

All official road signs in Wales are bilingual, so when a local authority for the Swansea Council e-mailed the following message, “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only,” to its in-house translation service it received the following in Welsh: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”

When officials thought the reply was what they needed. So that response was what went up in Welsh under the English version which barred trucks from the road. All seemed well, until Welsh speakers began pointing out the embarrassing error.

“We took it down as soon as we were made aware of it and a correct sign will be re-instated as soon as possible.”

The blunder is not the only time Welsh has been translated incorrectly. In 2006, cyclists between Cardiff and Penarth in 2006 were left confused by a bilingual road sign telling them they had problems with an “inflamed bladder.” In the same year, a sign for pedestrians in Cardiff reading ‘Look Right’ in English read ‘Look Left’ in Welsh.


  1. I’ll bet the sign wasn’t the only thing that was changed, I’d imagine that the translator’s out of office is now in English as well as Welsh.

    I think I might have suspected something was up when the “translation” came back in a matter of seconds. Ok, it was only a couple of sentences, not a huge, long paragraph but even the best translation agency out there isn’t going to be able to do it in a matter of seconds.

Comments are closed.