You will be trespassed automatically

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Bob Shackleton sent in this photo of a sign:

He followed up with a link to Neal Whitman, "Trespassers Will Be Trespassed", Visual Thesaurus 4/25/2013, which reacts to another transitive-trespass sign:

Which reminds me of an experience from 50-odd years ago, recounted in "Those who are not authorized are not authorized", 8/9/2003.

The OED gives various transitive senses of trespass, marked as obsolete, "with the matter of the trespass as object", but misses the transitive sense meaning to ban or expel someone from a location. But Wiktionary more or less nails it:

6. (transitive) To decree that a person shall be arrested for trespassing if he or she returns to someone else's land.

The dean trespassed the streaker from his university.

2012 June 21, Greg O'Connor, “Criminal trespasses police officers”, in Stuff‎[1]:
The entire police force has in effect been trespassed from a Wellington property to stop officers checking whether a heavy-sleeping offender is complying with an overnight bail curfew.

At least that fits the second sign. The "automatically" part of the first one still doesn't quite work, I think.



  1. Pohaku Nezami said,

    August 1, 2023 @ 8:34 pm

    Having spent much time around police officers in a far-Western state of the USA, I can report that the officers spoke of "trespass-warning" various people on behalf of the victims. Only after having once been trespass-warned could a suspect be arrested as a result of future violations. I can see how the phrase could be reduced to a simple transitive "trespass."

  2. AntC said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 12:03 am

    The entire police force has in effect been trespassed from a Wellington property …

    Heh heh I perked up at a New Zealand usage. The backstory is quite bemusing from a community policing point of view.

    Coming to NZ from UK, I did notice the transitive sense of 'trespass' as novel to me. Furthermore it is to Google:

    – it asked Did you mean "Criminal trespass police officers Stuff"?;
    – and yet that's ungrammatical; and
    – the very article — with exactly the given headline — was first amongst its hits.
    – ('' is a website that consolidates news stories from print organisations.)

    The "automatically" part of the first one [sign] still doesn't quite work, I think.

    I agree. They mean the relevant authorities aren't going to give any further warnings/exercise any discretion. One strike and you're out. But how to put that punchily? Probably 'Automatically' three underlines is the least worst. ('Immediately' or 'Permanently' doesn't emphasise the non-negotiability. A fancier word would go over the head of someone who'd read that far through the sign but still hadn't 'got it'.)

    'Smoking is prohibited in any part of this aircraft, including in the toilets.'

  3. Jan said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 3:43 am

    I remember coming across that use of "trespass" as a transitive verb in Glen Campbell's old Groom Lake Desert Rat newsletter: :
    "You were trespassing on private property when you were taking pictures," he said, with no hint of courtesy. "I must trespass you. Come with me."

  4. Ralph J Hickok said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 6:31 am

    I guess it's better than "Trespassers Will Be Violated."

  5. Breffni said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 7:23 am

    I read your story about unauthorised personnel in the hangar years ago, and it’s ruined those kinds of signs for me ever since. It’s also infected my parsing of Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Sufficiently advanced for what? To be indistinguishable from magic, presumably. It’s another case where on closer inspection a circularity seems to lurk inside a perfectly intelligible and contentful sentence. (It could be reframed as the much less snappy “A technology may be so advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic.”)

  6. Judge said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 8:14 am

    I showed this to my partner, who said that using "trespass" like this was common when working at a gas station. For example, the employees would say, "He can't come in here. He is trespassed." They also said the preposition "from" is used with it too, as in "You are trespassed from this business." We found this article about it, but the writer seems confused, too, saying both "Can you be trespassed from…" and "You can trespass from…"

  7. Cervantes said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 9:38 am

    This is similar to the common use of the word "violate" in criminal justice, meaning to file a report that a person has violated conditions of bail, probation or parole. If you, say, fail a drug test, your PO will "violate" you, you will be "violated." Same idea it seems.

  8. Francis Boyle said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 10:31 am


    I think the relevant concept is not circularity but (something like) recursion. It does indeed circle back back on itself but in doing so gains it's meaning.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 10:48 am

    Part of what's going on here is that businesses open to the general public are presumed to have invited pretty much any/all members of the public to enter their premises, meaning someone who does so is not trespassing. Meaning that if you really want someone who has behaved badly not to come back, it is advisable to make a record that they have been specifically warned that they, individually, do not have the same generic permission to enter the property that generic members of the public do. Here's a bureaucratic guide from the City of Orlando advising the police as to how to deal with "Trespass Warning Forms" in such scenarios:

    I would think "banned" or "banned from the premises" would be more idiomatic, but I've never been to New Zealand (although I don't know how much this odd-to-my-ear usage is specifically a Kiwi-ism).

  10. NSBK said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 11:48 am

    re: unauthorized personnel

    The posted link for the army hangar story doesn't seem to have comments associated with it so please forgive me if this was covered at length somewhere else.

    The question posed is "authorized personnel only WHAT?" but couldn't it be that the sign modifies (clarifies?) the entity that it is attached to, meaning something like "this place is for authorized personnel only" ?

  11. KevinM said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 3:32 pm

    For it to happen automatically, the bathroom must have been alarmed.
    @Cervantes: I once heard of a meeting of criminal defense counsel at which the no-trespassing sign on the door said "Prosecutors will be violated."

  12. Jim said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 4:34 pm

    The Lord's Prayer: "Let us not trespass those who trespass against us."

    I confess I never really understood what the heck that meant, other than contextually "Don't do until others as they have done to you."

  13. Taylor, Philip said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 5:07 pm

    In which version of the Bible does "Let us not trespass those who trespass against us" appear, Jim ? The only version with which I am familiar is "… forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".

  14. AntC said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 5:17 pm

    @JWB I would think "banned" or "banned from the premises" would be more idiomatic, but I've never been to New Zealand (although I don't know how much this odd-to-my-ear usage is specifically a Kiwi-ism).

    You seem to be confused. The anti-smoking sign that myl is discussing is not in New Zealand. Wiktionary's definition 6. (transitive) shows general usage. Quoting an article in NZ media is showing only that this is a broad international usage — they have other cites.

    My remark was pointing out the usage was not common in UK as at the time I first moved to NZ ~25 years ago. I don't claim to know the position in UK today.

  15. Adam said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 5:37 pm

    Ditto what Judge said. When I worked at a convenience store we also used that phrase, sometimes with "off" instead of "from." What we meant was that the police would arrive and warn the violator and document the incident so that if they ever came back, they would "automatically" be trespassing and would be subject to summary arrest.

  16. Philip Anderson said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 6:20 pm

    I’ve never met this meaning in the UK; I’m not surprised the OED doesn’t include it.
    It sounds weird to me, so my instinct is to classify it as an Americanism, although in this case it’s used in other countries.

  17. AntC said,

    August 2, 2023 @ 7:34 pm

    my instinct is to classify it as an Americanism

    Mine, too — but that would be merely exercising UK prejudices. So I looked for evidence.

    The City of Orlando advisory that @JWB links to has plenty of examples of the form

    4.2 h. Name and address of the property from which the person is trespassed;

    That doco also uses 'barred from', 'prohibited from', 'exclude from'.

    And there's plenty of U.S. crime/court reports saying some felon was trespassed from some premises. Disney World Florida (Orlando again?) seems to have a problem with people going there to party and getting out of control/getting trespassed. (Does Mickey Mouse even allow alcohol?)

    In general, U.S. usages reach Australia first; then later to NZ. But I'm having a hard time finding genuine Aus usages. Most I find in Aus news/crime reports are syndicated from NZ. (Or are TV schedules from U.S. crime programmes.) My Google-fu is not up to it.

    I'm sure Aus would have a comparable law. But perhaps it doesn't use the legal phraseology 'trespass from'(?)

  18. Aotearoa said,

    August 3, 2023 @ 4:40 am

    @AntC. Trespass is used more often than not in its transitive form in Aotearoa/New Zealand. As a former police officer and latterly a criminal law it was common place for it to be used this way in public and in the courts. However it is not used transitively in the Trespass Act 1980 (NZ).

  19. KeithB said,

    August 3, 2023 @ 8:30 am

    My guilty pleasure is to read "Not Always Right"

    And you often see the idiom used there.

  20. Alexander Pruss said,

    August 4, 2023 @ 9:18 am

    @Breffni:"Clarke’s Third Law: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' Sufficiently advanced for what? To be indistinguishable from magic, presumably. … [A] circularity seems to lurk inside a perfectly intelligible and contentful sentence."

    To me qua mathematician, Clarke's Third Law sounds perfectly fine, non-trivial and non-circular. Mathematicians often say things like "for sufficiently large x, we have G(x)", meaning that there is an N such that we have G(x) for all x that are bigger than N. For instance, "for sufficiently large x, 2^x is bigger than x^200".

    To see that this is perfectly non-tirivial and non-circular, consider this statement: "A sufficiently large integer is even." This is false, since there is no integer N such that all integers bigger than N are even.

    On this reading, Clarke's dictum says: There exists a level L of technology, such that any level of technology exceeding L is indistinguishable from magic. Whether this is true or not, it is sensible, non-trivial and non-circular, though of course comparing levels of technology involves a lot of vagueness (is a cellphone a higher level of technology from a Saturn V rocket?).

  21. Kimball Kramer said,

    August 6, 2023 @ 7:24 am

    @Breffni: It seems clear to me that Clarke’s Third Law as you quoted it means “Any technology sufficiently advanced FROM (not FOR) our current technology is indistinguishable from magic.” There is no circularity. If I am talking with someone about something and say, “That’s advanced”, I obviously mean that it is advanced from what we are talking about or advanced from me or us. The baseline of what we are behind of or advanced from is usually what is most immediate or close. If that is not the case it must be articulated. If we watch a demonstration of a teleportation machine and I say “That’s advanced,” you will know I do not mean it is advanced from a machine that cans peas, even if we are standing next to a pea-canning machine and there are no trains, planes or automobiles in sight. There are times when a comment is not clear and is misunderstood and usually subsequent conversation exposes the confusion and clears it up.

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