The Telegraph has a really fun slide show of street signs from around the world that are unintentionally funny. Among their collection is one that I also snapped with my BlackBerry–a sign advertising "Genuine Fake Watches" in Ephesus, in Turkey.
Why do we find foreign signs so funny? In part, I fear, there's a little smug superiority at lousy translations. But mostly (and I like this explanation better) it's because these signs are proof positive that we're actually someplace else.
Not to sound mystical, but The Signs are Everywhere. At, home we barely see signs –we absorb the information and we move right along. That's actually the hallmark of a good sign. (A bad sign, observed on a road with a slight downhill slope in New York State this summer said "No Coasting". Did that mean that I shouldn't turn the engine off and point the car down the hill, hoping for the best? One shouldn't have to ponder what sign means for months afterward.)
But when we're someplace else, even the most banal is fascinating, and the combination of something ordinary –an informational sign –is juxtaposed with the exotic unexpected. Formula for comedy: ordinary world +unexpected twist = laughter. (Or at least that's one way to get a guffaw.) Of course, there's also the fact that signs are great cultural indicators, spelling out what sorts of unsociable things people are likely to do, what would give offense, or, in a country where English isn't an official language, what they think will sell to tourists. (Exhibit: the advertisements for "Turkish Viagra" at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul –which actually seems to be some sort of candy.)
So I flipped back through my own collection of photos from a trip I took to India earlier this year, and found a few signs that I snapped.
These are more culturally revealing, I think. Here's one from the Great Wall of China. I left my tinder at the hotel.