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From reddit:

And across the hall:

See also "Honest but unhelpful", 7/1/2008, and "Honest but unhelpful II", 10/31/2008.

[h/t Shane Roberts]


  1. Tom Dawkes said,

    August 31, 2019 @ 5:45 am

    I live in Wales, where there is an official bilingual policy, but it falters at times, sometimes with just a mis-spelling, but occasionally worse: see and

  2. /df said,

    August 31, 2019 @ 7:51 am

    The problem being that despite Catalonia-style nationalist boosting, actual Welsh speaking is a skill limited to 20% of the population, while another 10% have some knowledge; that leaves a large majority who are unable even to identify the word "swyddfa" which is displayed on every Post *Office* (see the linked BBC story above).

    Yet motorway warning signs, with too little space to display both languages, use one at a time: non-Welsh speakers (some 99% of the UK and essentially 100% of foreign visitors) have to take it on trust that the Welsh sign they're reading doesn't say something like "road blocked by landslip in 800 yards", or perhaps "death to the English/European oppressor". And of course official letters either use twice as much paper or are unreadable by the elderly …

  3. David Morris said,

    August 31, 2019 @ 5:52 pm

    How many patients in Ireland have sacred hearts?

  4. chris said,

    August 31, 2019 @ 9:29 pm

    I think these are a bit more surprising than the previous examples linked. Weren't these signs printed and hung by English-speaking people who could damn well see that they didn't have proper Irish text?

    At least the Welsh example looked like it was saying something in Welsh (which it was, just not what was intended).

  5. Swindle said,

    August 31, 2019 @ 10:59 pm

    It's aspirational. Future home of Irish text.

  6. Eric TF Bat said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 12:49 am

    Clearly the correct text to place there is "Téacs Gaeilge anseo."

    (I will be very disappointed in Google Translate if the above turns out to be accurately translated and idiomatic Irish.)

  7. Yerushalmi said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 1:37 am

    I think these are a bit more surprising than the previous examples linked. Weren't these signs printed and hung by English-speaking people who could damn well see that they didn't have proper Irish text?

    I've worked with many people in printing office – they never question what the client says they want, even if it's obviously wrong. There's an expression in Hebrew called "rosh katan", lit. "small-headed", meaning someone who never thinks beyond the boundaries of their own job. They were told to print it, they've printed it, and if the client didn't notice it's the client's problem.

    As for the sign-hangers, It's likely they don't work for the hospital but rather an external company, and therefore had no ability to contact anyone who works for the hospital that could do something about it. I can picture them trying to call their own superiors and failing, or their superior responding, "That's not your job, just hang the sign up and get moving, you have another dozen clients to visit before noon."

  8. AlexB said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 3:46 am

    The same can happen in the custom birthday cake industry

  9. Trogluddite said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 11:09 am

    In British English, we might describe such a person as being a "jobsworth" (i.e. they consider it more than their job is worth to risk stepping outside the rule-book.) As your description of "rosh katan" also seems to suggest, the connotation is that the person's pedantic adherence to the rules is a passive-aggressive exercise of power, rather than due to laziness, lack of foresight, or any genuine risk of censure.

  10. Tom Dawkes said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 1:47 pm

    On the comment by Yerushalmi, this item from James Sutherland’s "Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes" (OUP, 1975) is worth recalling:

    Many years ago the late Dr R B McKerrow told me an astonishing story about an edition of the letters of Madame de Sévigné. When the galley proofs began to reach the editor, he found that the proof-reader had his own idea of how to spell Madame de Sévigné’s name, for he kept querying the accent on the first syllable. The editor meticulously wrote ‘stet’ beside each query, but with the next batch of proofs the process of query and ‘stet’ began all over again. When finally the page proofs arrived and the persistent proof-reader was still querying the accent, the editor lost his patience. Addressing himself to the proof-reader on the margin of the proof, he demanded that this futile exercise should stop. But now it was the printer’s turn. When the editor at last received an advance copy of his book, he was horrified to find in the middle of one of Madame de Sévigné’s letters the very words that he had written in anger on the final proof ‘For God's sake, stop popping up between Madame de Sévigné and me!’

  11. Garrett Wollman said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 3:22 pm

    At least it says "Irish text here" and not "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet".

    An interesting feature of Ireland is the (apparent?) requirement for public institutions to put the minority language (Irish) first, in those places where it's not the *exclusive* language. You see this on street signs, on public buildings and other structures, in the names of cultural institutions. I suppose it's a more benign form of linguistic nationalism than many of the alternatives (widely attested throughout Europe during the 20th century).

  12. /df said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 6:30 pm

    Despite the Irish language being constitutionally the first language of the Republic (hence the signage priority), the overall statistics for speakers and understanders in Ireland seem to be not much higher than those for Welsh in Wales.

    Perhaps the Irish signage workers fully recognised the errors and happily went along with them, as a snub to the 1st language? Or they may have been happier with Lithuanian than English, let alone Irish? Or the longer Irish translation didn't fit?

  13. Viseguy said,

    September 1, 2019 @ 9:38 pm

    Barda Naomh Séamas, according to Google.

  14. Ursa Major said,

    September 2, 2019 @ 6:34 am

    @Garrett Wollman

    On the times I've visited Ireland I was interested in the design of the bilingual signs. I noticed that although the Irish text is placed first, it is usually smaller, italicised, and/or printed in a less contrasting colour. The English text is usually larger, bold and black.

    I assumed that it was the result of a kind of compromise. The Irish text is given priority, but the (generally more useful) English is easier to read.

  15. Philip Anderson said,

    September 2, 2019 @ 10:52 am

    For an example of the dangers of bilingual signs, see here

    But seriously:
    1) Many other countries have bilingual signs.
    2) Does even the most paranoid English monoglot really think that important information would be given in Welsh only?
    3) If the information is different, the Welsh is probably wrong, in my experience.
    4) English speakers are convinced they are being insulted in Welsh, but so what if the Welsh translation is an anti-English slogan?
    5) Anti-European prejudice is in my experience far less common among Welsh speakers

    This kind of anti-Welsh prejudice is not uncommon in Britain, and the low number of speakers (not entirely unconnected with historic discrimination) is frequently used to justify it.

  16. /df said,

    September 3, 2019 @ 4:00 am

    Unfortunately it seems I can't watch the Facebook video (which is no doubt very much to the point) without an account.

    Multilingual signing has a different context in, say, Belgium or Switzerland.

    Non-Welsh speakers can decide for themselves without "prejudice" their view of the language, with its literary history and exciting mutations. Few would dispute its positive role in community bonding even in areas where little Welsh is normally used. What may be less welcome is its promotion by local politicians ("Cymraeg 2050") as a tool of separatism, and the costs of using Welsh for official purposes (and Welsh as a requirement for official jobs), when It's likely that there are more (eg) Polish monoglots in Wales than Welsh: the pointless motorway signs are a visible symbol of that (why is information being displayed if it's not important, and, if it is, why risk it not being understood?). And while no-one actually thinks that they're being secretly insulted by road signs, English visitors with unannounced Welsh skills have certainly eavesdropped conversations that would never have been held in English.

    Returning to the original Irish topic, the pictures may look as if the incorrect text uses a slightly smaller (green) font, but it's the same height. The lower line is bold: using regular vs bold compensates for some of the extra length of the Irish text.

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    September 3, 2019 @ 1:37 pm

    As one who speaks barely a word of Welsh, Cornish, or any of the Goidelic family, I welcome bi-lingual signs in those languages, since each such sign gives me an opportunity to become slightly more familiar with the language of the region I have chosen to visit. The Facebook video appears to have an alter ego at

  18. /df said,

    September 3, 2019 @ 6:09 pm

    Thanks to @Philip Taylor and, I see that it's just like the M4 through Newport, except that vehicles are moving.

    No doubt most readers of this blog have @PT's interest in multilingual signs (where would we be without the Rosetta stone?), but our minority enjoyment comes at a cost, possibly justifiable for other reasons. Monolingual road signs that few drivers can understand are just daft.

  19. Philip Taylor said,

    September 4, 2019 @ 5:40 am

    "Monolingual road signs that few drivers can understand are just daft" — I still remember the day (fifty years ago ?) when it was decreed that the words "No entry" were no longer to appear within the stripe, and I of course assumed on seeing the replacement sign (white stripe on red ground, no words) that the proscription had been withdrawn … Fortunately no accident ensued, but it could so easily have done.

  20. Philip Anderson said,

    September 4, 2019 @ 7:41 am

    What “monolingual road signs that few drivers can understand”?
    I am not aware of any Welsh-only signs, although there are still a good number in English.
    If, as you allow, Welsh has a role in binding communities, and by extension the nation, together, then it needs to be visible, in public and private, and given an equal status.

  21. /df said,

    September 4, 2019 @ 6:46 pm

    @Philip Taylor, you mention a change that occurred internationally to avoid the road sign of Babel problem, bypassing the USA, whose chatty signage always surprises me.

    @Philip Anderson, I meant the (alternately?) monoglot electronic motorway signs mentioned in my post "2019-08-31 @ 7:51", that leave almost all visitors and a majority of Welsh residents wondering what they are being warned about when Welsh is the choice. Fortunately the message is normally either platitudinous or wrong.

    Your extension of my "binding role" to the "nation" is problematic: at one extreme is a chorus of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau; at the other is some future Siarl Penbryn attempting an illegal secession referendum. Such a role could also be ascribed to old or poetic variants of English (eg Shakespearian) without making fluency a mandatory requirement for civil servants nor translating council tax bills. Welsh can be visible and respected and used by people who wish to, just as other minority languages are throughout Britain: in London this afternoon I could have been in the 21st arrondissement. But maybe we have used enough of our host's generous commenting space on this?

  22. Easterly said,

    September 9, 2019 @ 7:37 am

    Reminds me of the old joke about the foreigner coming to the UK without a word of English but intent on making up for this as swiftly as possible. So s/he buys a phrasebook and works hard to memorize the English phrases appropriate to common interactions. All goes well until one day s/he’s invited to a dinner party and, keen to make a good impression, at the commencement of the meal proudly and loudly wishes everyone “No Equivalent”.

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