Translating British Signs

Two countries separated by a common language.
— George Bernard Shaw – 1940

If you’ve followed us through the years, you’re well aware that we always ‘photo-collect’ signs when we’re traveling. They’re interesting souvenirs and don’t take up much room. In England, where the native language is English, you’d presume as English-speakers ourselves, we’d understand signs we came across, but au contraire. Sometimes we just scratched our heads and waited till we could access wifi in order to find a translation. Sometimes, though the word meanings escaped us, we figured out the meaning by the clever icons. Other times, we understood, but were just amused. Here’s a sampling …


One of our favorites. We didn’t immediately figure out the meaning of ‘no fouling’, but the icon depicting a steaming, odiferous pile of dog poo was a dead giveaway of its meaning.  In fact, we encountered several ‘dog doo’ and dog don’t signs … some more graphic than others.

One of our favorites. We didn’t immediately figure out the meaning of ‘no fouling’, but the icon depicting a steaming, odiferous pile of dog poo was a dead giveaway of its meaning.

In fact, we encountered several ‘dog doo’ and dog don’t signs … some more graphic than others.

No zebras in sight, but having been in many other British Commonwealth countries, we knew this meant a ‘crosswalk’. Did you know that Americans pronounce ‘zee-bra’, but Brits pronounce it ‘zeh-bra’?

No zebras in sight, but having been in many other British Commonwealth countries, we knew this meant a ‘crosswalk’. Did you know that Americans pronounce ‘zee-bra’, but Brits pronounce it ‘zeh-bra’?

It was easy to figure out ‘no ball games’ in this parking lot, but ‘no fly tipping’ had us scratching our heads. We later learned ‘fly tipping’ is illegal dumping of trash.

It was easy to figure out ‘no ball games’ in this parking lot, but ‘no fly tipping’ had us scratching our heads. We later learned ‘fly tipping’ is illegal dumping of trash.

Huh? We had to look this one up, too. Wiki helped us out. ‘In Irish and British civil engineering, a  banksman  is the person who directs the operation of a crane or larger vehicle from the point near where loads are attached and detached. The term 'dogman' may be used in Australia and New Zealand, while ‘spotter’ is the more common term in USA.’ Just one more example of countries separated by the same language.

Huh? We had to look this one up, too. Wiki helped us out. ‘In Irish and British civil engineering, a banksman is the person who directs the operation of a crane or larger vehicle from the point near where loads are attached and detached. The term 'dogman' may be used in Australia and New Zealand, while ‘spotter’ is the more common term in USA.’ Just one more example of countries separated by the same language.

A little pub humor or is that ‘humour’?

A little pub humor or is that ‘humour’?

Really? Boat and kid crossing? Actually, a rowing club was hauling boats back and forth across the path from the river to the boat shed. Out of context, however, this would be a puzzler.

Really? Boat and kid crossing? Actually, a rowing club was hauling boats back and forth across the path from the river to the boat shed. Out of context, however, this would be a puzzler.

PSPO? Well, that’s ‘public spaces protection order’, of course. Seems it shouldn’t be necessary to have a specific sign-posted ‘zone’ that prohibits anti-social driving behavior. I mean, anti-social driving should be prohibited everywhere, but if a driver gets pissed-off, a sign really isn’t going to deter him/her. Will it? Oh, wait … ‘pissed’ in Britain means drunk, not irritated. Never mind … it’s that language thing again.

PSPO? Well, that’s ‘public spaces protection order’, of course. Seems it shouldn’t be necessary to have a specific sign-posted ‘zone’ that prohibits anti-social driving behavior. I mean, anti-social driving should be prohibited everywhere, but if a driver gets pissed-off, a sign really isn’t going to deter him/her. Will it? Oh, wait … ‘pissed’ in Britain means drunk, not irritated. Never mind … it’s that language thing again.

We appreciated the warning, but wondered why it was necessary to warn us about walking on the roof in the first place. Perhaps, roof-walking is another British sport that we don’t quite fathom.

We appreciated the warning, but wondered why it was necessary to warn us about walking on the roof in the first place. Perhaps, roof-walking is another British sport that we don’t quite fathom.

Flu   jab  ? Sounds like a rough way to get a flu shot.

Flu jab? Sounds like a rough way to get a flu shot.

Is there supposed to be a ‘d’ on the end of the word? Should we have been worried? Nah, just a warning to boaters to watch for the fish trap.

Is there supposed to be a ‘d’ on the end of the word? Should we have been worried? Nah, just a warning to boaters to watch for the fish trap.

Yup, gabion baskets are everywhere. They are actually metal cages filled with rocks and other hard materials placed on the riverbanks to prevent erosion. Who knew?

Yup, gabion baskets are everywhere. They are actually metal cages filled with rocks and other hard materials placed on the riverbanks to prevent erosion. Who knew?

The Brits have a penchant for understatement.

The Brits have a penchant for understatement.

And last, but certainly not least …

signs_best fish and chips probably.JPG