Arrogant squid of North Texas

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Joe Tello sent me this funny sign:

The line of Chinese at the top says "àomàn yóu 傲慢鱿" ("arrogant squid").  That's puzzling enough by itself, but I actually found the English to be even more mystifying.  It seems to be telling us that this place is in the East Location of the Southwest District of North Texas.  When I try to figure out on a map of Texas where that would put it, my imagination fails me.

So I tried to find out more about the context of this baffling sign.

I spent quite a bit of time tracking down flimsy leads, such as the Southeast District of the Texas United Methodist Conference, which has a connection with Emmaus, which I thought might just be the source of "àomàn yóu 傲慢鱿" ("arrogant squid").  Ditto for a suggestion that it was a satellite school for University of North Texas in the "Southeast US district".  No luck.

After several hours, I realized that I was just flailing about and getting nowhere closer to a real solution to the meaning of the sign by proceeding in this hit-or-miss fashion.  So I had to get serious and take a more realistic tack to obtain more primary data about the sign.

The first thing I discovered is this Facebook post:

Well, there's the sign, but it's not in North Texas:  it's in the southeastern part of the Houston metropolitan area, in Southeast Texas!

At least with this photograph, though, we have a bit more context:  this "Arrogant Squid" establishment appears to be in a securely fenced and gated industrial park type of setting.  It doesn't look as they would welcome a knock on their door to ask why they posted such a bewildering sign outside their gate.

I found a few more details about the location from this Reddit thread, which shows that it's next to a Shell station and tells us that it is supposedly in Clear Lake, on Beamer Road, south of 2351.

Now, let's move on to Google Maps street view and snoop around a bit:

Still no luck.  Still stumped.  Still didn't know why they call it "Arrogant Squid" and why they give such bizarre locational information.

So I reached out to my son, who lives in North Texas (in the Dallas area) and is also familiar with the Houston area.  His reply came as a flash of blinding insight:

Well it's not anything ever to be seen around North Texas!

With this extra information*, I will guess that this is inside the international port area

And the Chinese characters could be mis-soundings for a country or city of origin – either country Oman or city of Amman Jordan.

Then North Texas may be the destination,

And the 2 lowest lines are distinctions for areas of the port.

[*In addition to the photograph of the sign itself, all that I told my son is that the place is south of FM 2351 on Beamer Rd, Friendswood, Texas, which is in the southeast part of Houston and that it is near a place called Clear Lake.  I didn't give him the Google Map coordinates.]

With these credible insights and a little help from Language Log readers, I think we can solve the mystery of the arrogant squid of North Texas for once and all.  Maybe.

Reading

"Franco-Croatian Squid in pepper sauce" (3/12/09)

[Thanks to Thomas Krishna Mair]



21 Comments

  1. John Swindle said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 3:48 am

    Google Maps shows a Sewart Supply and a Sunstate Equipment there. It's fairly close to the Armand (Arrogant Squid?) Bayou. Even if that's the right reference, it wouldn't explain much.

  2. John Swindle said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 4:18 am

    Sorry—that should be "Armand (Arrogant?) Bayou." I'm trying to see it as Sunstate Equipment's Houston East location, but that wouldn't explain "North Texas" or "Southwest District." Or the squid.

  3. Leo said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 5:30 am

    At least we can say it's North of the Border and (at times) West of the Sun.

  4. Leo said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 5:32 am

    I should have looked that up first! The novel is called South of the Border.

  5. ycx said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 7:35 am

    Great SEO! This is now the #1search for "arrogant squid" on Google.

  6. ycx said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 7:49 am

    Also, from the Google Maps time feature, it's interesting that while the signpost containing the "Arrogant Squid" sign has been up since 2008 (the first datapoint on Google Maps), the sign only appeared there in the 2019 datapoint.

    I agree with John Swindle that Armand Bayou is the most likely culprit, with a relatively similar pronunciation and being about 4 miles away from the sign.

  7. unekdoud said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 8:00 am

    I have a lot of theories where the words don't mean anything: 1) A landmark that needs to not be mistaken for a real sign. 2) An eye chart. 3) An experimental aid. 4) A planted clue for an alternate reality game. 5) A promotional stunt. 6) Really awful case of mojibake. 7) Result of a google translate roundrobin. 8) Somebody was testing out the sign printer by copy-pasting in random stuff.

    But perhaps my favorite of them is this: somebody tried to OCR a map.

  8. Trogluddite said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 9:40 am

    Somewhat inspired by @unekdoud's suggestions, I entered the three Chinese characters into the search box of 'what3words', separated by the customary dots (it's a newfangled way of encoding a GPS location into a unique series of three words).

    I was rather surprised to find that this yielded three results, two in the USA and one in the UK. The US locations were not in Texas; but any conspiracy theorists among us will be excited to hear that the first suggestion was a location not far from the US capital!

    The site helpfully "translated" the three "words" into the triplets 'also.many.year', 'back.many.year' and 'also.moon.year'. All rather far from squids of any disposition, but I don't know any Chinese language or UTF encoding anything like well enough to be certain that there's no clue there at all. Or maybe that's all part of the "game" too?! ;-)

  9. Trogluddite said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 9:55 am

    ^ Ah, what a fool! As soon as I read back, I realised that the badly translated triplets are quite obviously phonetic!

  10. yuanfei said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 4:38 pm

    I saw it somewhere that this sign is by a gas station. So it could be a sign for 加油站?

  11. Narmitaj said,

    February 3, 2020 @ 5:46 pm

    https://what3words.com is useful, but note that each language – and there are about 40, including Arabic, Chinese, Tamil, Hindi – has its own independent set of three.words.formations. They are not translations of each other, presumably in part because of the danger of words in one language having several possible translations.

    Also, what.three.words generally likes to have short and easily memorable words, and a short word in one language might be long in another. In a quick random hunt round about 30 squares in London, they were mostly one or two syllable words, with "comical", "galaxy" and "congratulations" also popping up.

  12. John Swindle said,

    February 4, 2020 @ 1:06 am

    Districts and even calendar directions may be different if you're a squid.

  13. John Swindle said,

    February 4, 2020 @ 1:09 am

    Um, compass directions.

  14. Alex said,

    February 4, 2020 @ 10:25 am

    Reminds me of Fifth Third Bank!

  15. Ian said,

    February 4, 2020 @ 12:31 pm

    Am I the only one wondering why there is Chinese on the sign at all?

  16. richardelguru said,

    February 4, 2020 @ 12:50 pm

    In Dallas we have an East Northwest Highway.
    I've been on the south side of it.

  17. David Morris said,

    February 4, 2020 @ 2:54 pm

    Where does the East Northwest Highway go?

  18. J said,

    February 5, 2020 @ 12:06 pm

    Using the Googlemap, the address on the mailbox is 155 Beamer Rd in Friendswood Tx. t
    That building is tagged as "Sewart Supply"… and a search for that name yielded "About Sewart Supply Inc:Established in 1992, Sewart Supply is located at 4011 Fm 2351 Rd in Friendswood, TX – Galveston County and is a business listed in the categories Marine Equipment & Supplies, Marine Equipment & Supplies Repairing, Clutches & Facings, Cranes & Derricks Accessories & Parts, Boat Services, Boat Repairing, Cranes & Derricks, Marine Engines & Transmissions, Clutches, Nautical Repair and Boat Equipment & Services Boat Repairing and offers TORQUE CONVERTORS, Cranes, Engines & Engine Parts, Hydraulics, Parts, Parts & Accessories, Pumps, Transmissions, Motors, Stock etc. After you do business with Sewart Supply Inc, please leave a review to help other people and improve hubbiz. Also, don't forget to mention Hubbiz to Sewart Supply Inc."
    So I guess a business dealing with marine equipment rebuilding might have a sign that refers to squid as arrogant…

  19. Thomas Rees said,

    February 5, 2020 @ 5:35 pm

    No, Sewart Supply is the large L-shaped building behind the property in question at 15510 Beamer Road, once the location of Colony Landscape Company, Mr Scott South(!), Owner, which the Better Business Bureau believes was no longer in business in July 2009. This makes sense; small office in front and large shed in back for landscaping stuff.

    More recently I find
    Westco International Manufacturing Inc
    15510 Beamer Road
    Friendswood, TX 77546
    (281) 993-5460 [number no longer in service]
    Year Established: 2010
    Annual Revenue Estimate: 102898
    SIC Code: 3999, Manufacturing Industries, NEC
    NAICS Code: 339999, All Other Miscellaneous Manufacturing
    Employees: 2
    Principal: Pruitt Wells

    It's only five miles from the Johnson Space Center, but nowhere near Area 51.

  20. Sarah S said,

    February 6, 2020 @ 10:39 am

    The mystery deepens? I reached out to the building's registered owner (I'm not going to publish personal info here), who replied:

    "When the tenant leased the property a couple of years ago and installed the sign, I asked the owner what they do and he responded with the following: 看到的人就是飞行的人,但是蝴蝶总是会拍打翅膀. I can't read Chinese, so I have no idea what it means. Sorry that I can't be of further assistance."

  21. BZ said,

    February 10, 2020 @ 1:10 pm

    @Sarah S,
    Well, according to Google, that means "People who see are flying people, but butterflies always flap their wings". That explains everything.

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