It is forbidden to urinate here. The penalty is bang.

« previous post | next post »

Despite the best efforts of two dozen stellar native and non-native scholars and teachers of Chinese, we still have not reached a consensus about the exact meaning and syntax of the sign at a Shanghai construction site presented in "Next Day's Chinese lesson":  Jìnzhǐ xiǎobiàn, fǒuzé sǐrén 禁止小便,否則死人 ("prohibit urine, otherwise die person").

Such is not the case with the sign in this photograph, taken a few years ago in Bohol in the central Philippines.  The photographer was Piers Kelly, editor of Fully (sic), and the language is Visayan (also called Cebuano).

Transcription:  Guinadili ang pag-pangihi dinhi. Ang silot [bang!]

This can be roughly analyzed as:

forbidden TOPIC act.of-urination here. TOPIC penalty [bang!]

More freely: "It is forbidden to urinate here. The penalty is [bang]"

One could hardly be more explicit, especially since the "bang" is vividly illustrated with a picture of the tool that will produce the sound.


  1. Cameron said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 11:07 am

    I wish I'd taken a photo of it, but there used to be a hand-written sign posted in front of a business in my neighborhood (NY's Chinatown) that read "Please don't curb your dog here".

    Not quite as dramatic as the death threats in these other signs, but still somewhat amusing.

  2. SlideSF said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    I like the much more politely euphemistic sign that's posted near my apartment:

    "Please Do Not Allow Your Dog to Use The Restroom Under This Tree"

    I keep looking under the tree, but I have not been able to locate a "restroom" there.

  3. Mr Fnortner said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

    A neighbor's mail box post is home to an 18" high painted wooden cutout of a squatting dog on which is superimposed the universal "no" symbol. Wordless, but amusing and effective. (The figure does not include any symbol for consequences, however.)

  4. Debbie said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

    In public parks and trails in my city, we have signs posted with a sad looking dog and the message, "I'm so embarrassed, you didn't clean up after me." This is followed by the bylaw number and the maximum fine.

  5. groki said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

    the gun looks like one of those gag pistols that deploys the word "bang" when you pull the trigger. so maybe it's just saying: "penalty: [we'll all think you're a] clown!"

    more seriously, is "bang" the actual onomatopoeia in Visayan? or is this a borrowing from movies or cartoons or something?

  6. Jesse Tseng said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

    I doubt any of these signs will survive as long as this CACATOR CAVE MALV[M] from Pompeii has.

    Other nice examples (with French translation) can be found here. No "Bang! 死人" death threats here, just the wrath of Jupiter, Mars, and Diana… And plenty of strange spelling/syntax to puzzle over!

  7. Piers Kelly said,

    September 2, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

    @groki: It turns out that 'bang' is a Visayan onomatopoeic word, though clearly borrowed from English. It's defined in John Wolff's monumental Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan (1972) as "word used in writing to indicate the sound of an explosion". 'bang' is a fairly common syllable in non-borrowed Visayan words, and it's pronounced like the English 'bung' but with a shorter vowel.

  8. Disfraz said,

    September 3, 2010 @ 10:53 pm

    Or this, via Microsiervos. Loose translation: "If you're thinking you can cross this farm in eight minutes, [remember that] my bull Brinco can do it in four."

    Sometimes the indirect route is the most effective.

  9. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    September 3, 2010 @ 10:57 pm

    @Piers Kelly:

    Is this the John Wolff who taught at Cornell in the 1970s? I lost track of him but have fond memories of the introductory linguistics class he taught, which was also where I met my late husband.

  10. groki said,

    September 5, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

    Piers Kelly: thank you for the Visayan lesson.

RSS feed for comments on this post