Don't eat the carpet

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Sign in an Indian airport:

The Hindi on the sign says:

farsh par khaana sakht mana hain
फ़र्श पर खाना सख्त मना हैं |
"Eating on the carpet is strictly prohibited."

aadesh se
आदेश से
"By order"

Prepositions and postpositions (adpositions), though generally small and unassuming, should not be overlooked.  They usually convey essential information.

Selected readings



17 Comments

  1. David Morris said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 3:02 pm

    Maybe they mean 'don't have a temper tantrum' (which meaning is recorded in Oxford Reference).

  2. Andy Stow said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 3:18 pm

    "Eating carpet" has a much more common prurient meaning, too.

  3. Chandra said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 4:03 pm

    Dying of laughter and immediately sending this to my group chat

  4. Laura Morland said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 5:01 pm

    This reminds me of my first excursion in the New York subway system when I was 16 years old. I soon noticed a prominent sign proclaiming "NO SPITTING".

    "What a funny sign!" I remarked to my uncle. "Who would want to spit?"

    "Oh, LOTS of people," he replied.

    So here, beyond the amusement of the missing preposition, I would like to know what this sign actually intends to prohibit.

    "No eating while any part of your body is in contact with the carpet," OR

    "No sitting down on the carpet and eating." ?

    In the latter case, I might ask, "Who would want to do that?"

    (I know, I know — sometimes there are more people than chairs in an airport lounge.)

  5. Dan Milton said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 6:36 pm

    Looking at the fine print, I've wondered whether the "by order" often seen on signs in India is supposed to convey anything more specific than a sense of seriousness .

  6. John Swindle said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 10:06 pm

    @Laura Morland: Or "No eating in carpeted area."

    I share Dan Milton's curiosity about what, if anything, "By Order" actually means. And is it exclusively South Asian, or is it some obscure or obsolete British usage?

  7. AntC said,

    January 27, 2020 @ 11:59 pm

    "By Order" … is it exclusively South Asian, or is it some obscure or obsolete British usage?

    It might be old-fashioned British usage, but not obsolete. There's plenty of signs in Britain with 'By Order' in a bottom corner (usually with some local council or byelaw-enactor appended). In this case, the sign is By Order of the Airports Authority; nothing problematic/obscure/unusual there.

  8. Philip Taylor said,

    January 28, 2020 @ 5:10 am

    "By order" is, of course, meant to imply that the proscription is to be taken Very Seriously Indeed. The phrase certainly appeared on many signs (most of which I ignored, of course) in my youth, and I would not be in the least surprised to find a "No fishing" sign in an illustrated A A Milne book with the sub-text "By order" …

  9. Leo said,

    January 28, 2020 @ 6:13 am

    "…are hereby ordered…"

  10. David Morris said,

    January 28, 2020 @ 7:09 am

    @Andy. I originally searched for 'chew the carpet'. I've just found out that that has the same prurient meaning. 'Much more common'???? Not in my idio- or sociolect.

  11. David Morris said,

    January 28, 2020 @ 7:32 am

    So definitely no prurient-type eating carpet here, please!

  12. Philip Taylor said,

    January 28, 2020 @ 8:41 am

    In the U.K., the prurient version is normally expressed as "carpet muncher" (sb.), in my experience.

  13. mikegrubb said,

    January 28, 2020 @ 9:01 am

    Given the Language Log audience, I feel like a comment about cunning linguists' attention to "eating carpet" is right on the tip of my tongue, but that may cause more umbrage than the intended mirth.

  14. M.P. said,

    January 29, 2020 @ 10:34 am

    I couldn't resist but to send this picture to an Indian friend of mine, and lo and behold, it turns out she actually came across a sign with this message before. She said: "I did ask the authorities about it.. they had said that you shouldnt eat while youre on the carpet.. basically so that the carpet stays clean"

  15. David Morris said,

    January 30, 2020 @ 7:41 am

    When I quoted Oxford Reference's 'temper tantrum', I suddenly thought that I would never say that – I'd say 'tantrum'. To me 'temper tantrum' is redundant – what other kinds of trantra are there? 'Temper tantrum' has always sounded vaguely American to me. Google Ngrams shows that 'a tantrum' and 'a temper tantrum' are both used in BrEng and AmEng, with the simpler form noticeably more common. 'A temper tantrum' is slightly stronger in AmEng, with 'a tantrum' about 2-6 times more common in Br Eng and 2-3 times more common in AmEng.

    Further, 'a temper tantrum' seems to have sprung into existence in 1916, then increased in usage from 1923. English Language & Usage Stack Exchange cites a psychiatric case at John [sic] Hopkins University in 1918 (https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/24118/whats-the-etymology-of-the-noun-temper-tantrum).

  16. Philip Taylor said,

    January 30, 2020 @ 8:23 am

    As a native speaker of <Br.E>, I would have no hesitation in using "temper tantrum" in a pejorative sense. I would normally associate the concept with infants and young children, but I feel that "road rage" is perhaps just an adult manifestation of the same phenomenon.

  17. Chas Belov said,

    February 1, 2020 @ 2:49 pm

    And the obligatory Google ngram of temper tantrum vs. road rage showing "road rage" rising like a meteor in the late '90s to pass up "temper tantrum" in 2001.

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