Normative Signs: The Poetry of "Ought"

In which the author finds beauty in how people tell other people what to do.

Month: August, 2013

No Motorcycle Stunts

motorcycle_stunt“No motorcycle stunts!” (Or at least that’s what this sign looks like at a quick glance. And isn’t a quick glance supposed to be enough for a non-verbal sign like this?)

It’s posted on the gate of a pay-parking lot in Toronto (at Yonge & Castlefield).

Can’t You Read Dutch?

IMG_2156I’m generally sticking to normative signs in English, but I’m making an exception here because the picture is both funny and lovely.

The sign is in Dutch, and it says, roughly, “Bicycle parking prohibited” or, more literally, “Placing your bicycle is prohibited” or “Storing your bicycle is prohibited”. I wonder if parking temporarily counts?

The picture was taken in Ghent, and contributed by Jeffery Smith.

Gates from Hell

dangerous_gateI love normative signs that use graphics to convey great danger. Drawing one of these must be the highlight of a sign artist’s day.

I assume that the graphics are a non-trivial part of the sign — that is, the sometimes-gruesome graphics are used for persuasive emphasis.

This sign, portraying grave physical danger, is posted near the gate of a pay-parking lot at a Toronto hospital.

Post No Bills

post_no_billsThis one is an absolute classic. If there were a Hall of Fame for normative signs (*sigh*) this one would be among the first inductees.

Nearly aphoristic in its terse simplicity, the phrase “post no bills” is part of our cultural lexicon. It’s in the Urban Dictionary, and — giving you a sense of how old the phrase is — it’s the title of a silent film from 1896.

I also find “post no bills” interesting for its continued use despite the fact that most people, I’m guessing, couldn’t tell you what a “bill” is. (In case you’re wondering, it’s short for “playbill,” which is another word for a poster advertising a play.)

This photo was snapped at a construction site in Toronto.