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Funny French Signs

I love funny signs, and I know that many of my readers enjoy them also. At the beginning of my 38th year (!) of teaching French, I decided to share some French humor. I'll try to do it in a way that all can enjoy, even if they've never studied French.

In a post called Unhelpful Road Signs I poked fun at the following combination of signs:

picture of French sign

I still miss the logic of one sign's saying Toutes Directions, indicating all directions, right next to another sign saying other directions. If all means all, how can there be other?! And yet you see that pairing of signs all over France!

This next pairing is even more illogical.

picture of French sign

If that is possible, then I guess the next set of signs is a viable option.

picture of French sign

By turning right, you can go north, east, and west! I wonder what you have to do to go south.

That would make the next sign also seem to make sense.

picture of French sign

Because of construction, to go straight you take a left?

This next sign gives a clue as to why the French are so good at one particular activity....

picture of French sign

They have a special school to teach them to go on strike.

Here's are two signs whose only connection is supposed to be the location of the places indicated.

picture of French sign

It's great for the national police that their station is located near a mountainous tourist destination called Gros Cerveau, which means big brain.

Here's an interesting caution sign....

picture of French sign

I wonder what exactly about elderly people is worthy of a warning. Here's one I consider a warning to the elderly!

picture of French sign

It would be interesting to know how close the retirement home is to the industrial zone (z. i.) of slaughter houses.

The French are great with signs telling you what not to do. I can think of three ways they have of doing so. Some signs will tell you that something is interdit = "forbidden." This sign maker had a sense of humor.

picture of French sign

So don't think you're going to get away with moseying in there with your vehicle on a leash!

And you can see how good the French are at obeying such signs!

picture of French sign

Vehicles are not the only things forbidden in some places....

picture of French sign

I thought sidewalks were designed for pedestrians!

picture of French sign

Boy, it's really going to stop people when they are formally forbidden to touch the plants!

Another means of telling people not to do something with the word défense which in this context means "prohibition."

The first time I saw a sign like the next one in a Parisian subway car, I was amazed that it was necessary.

picture of French sign

That is, until I saw evidence of those who spit in the subway car in spite of that sign.

I have to wonder if this sign is for real.

picture of French sign

I hope they will indeed heavily fine anyone caught dumping cadavres!

picture of sign

The third method used by the French to tell people not to do something is more universally recognized. It's illustrated in the sign on the right and is easy enough to understand — don't panic!

With "don't" firmly in mind, on leaving a French town by car, I am amused by the way they show you that you are leaving the city limits.

picture of French sign

On the outskirts of Fondettes, my bizarre mind would think, "Don't Fondettes!"

OK, class, what is wrong in the next two pictures?

picture of French sign

picture of French sign

Right! Or maybe not....

If you know the international signage for "No Parking," you might find the next sign amusing.

picture of French sign

If you can "park" in the cemetery for only 15 minutes, it's no wonder they have signs telling people not to dump bodies! What's a living Frenchman to do?!

I know what 50 of them could do....

picture of French sign

They could snag one of the 50 plots still available in that historic cemetery.

I look forward to your reactions to the signs in today's post.


"For Bethlehem and Calvary to be precious to us, Eden has to be horrific to us." - Charles Barrett

=^..^= =^..^=

Should you trust a stockbroker who's married to a travel agent?

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10 Comments on “Funny French Signs”

  1. #1 JohnMatzko
    on Aug 26th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    My French is shaky enough that if I actually saw these signs in place, I’d figure I was just missing something. I assume the “personnes agees” warning is the inverse of our “children at play.” And my old French dictionary says that the word “cadavres” can be used for empty bottles. So maybe that sign is near a bistro?

    Rob adds: John, you are probably right about the “geezers at play” idea, but I just found it amusing that the sign was so basic with a huge exclamation mark, resulting in OLD PEOPLE! (Like, scream and run from them???) A secondary usage of cadavres is its slang use for “empties,” and your thought might be valid. My mind just immediately went to the primary sense of “carcass.” Sorry, maybe I’m too much of a literalist, even though I’m an incorrigible punster. As Becka might have cause to say (but doesn’t because she’s too sweet….), “Don’t laugh. It will only incorrige him.” 🙂

  2. #2 Carrie
    on Aug 26th, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I like the All Directions signs. Yikes!

    Rob adds: Sometimes in real life I feel as if I’m going in all directions, but I also know that that is not a correct perception. I am incapable of that. 😀

  3. #3 Brian Tojdowski
    on Aug 26th, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    The Nord, Est, Ouest sign reminds me of home. The street my parents live on begins as East Avenue in Shortsville, crosses the train tracks to become South Ave. in Manchester, and crosses a street to become North Ave. for its last little leg.

    Rob adds: Does the road turn so that its orientation is in the direction of its name?

  4. #4 Sarah
    on Aug 26th, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    We’ve got a road like that “Nord, Est, Ouest” sign in Sherwood Park, AB. As you’re heading West into Edmonton on one main drag, you’ll see signs at the overpass indicating that you should exit right (North) to go East to Lloydminster, and you should exit left (South) to go East to Camrose. The roads do eventually turn around to go the right way, but it sure looks strange on the signs!

    Rob adds: Now that makes sense. Maybe there’s an explanation like that to the set of signs I posted, but it surely does look odd.

  5. #5 Michael
    on Aug 27th, 2010 at 8:20 am

    I like the town signs indicating that you have left the city limits. Very efficient use of signage. It would also be helpful, though, to know where you are as well as where you are not.

    Rob adds: Michael, there are days, though, where I’m not sure where I am.

  6. #6 Vikki
    on Aug 27th, 2010 at 9:16 am

    The Nord, Est, Ouest sign reminds me of the time we were in the Detroit area and were give directions to a Big Boy and told to make a Michigan left. We clarified it by asking if the restaurant was to the left at that corner and were told, yes. We were quite confused when we got to the intersection and found signs directing us to the right hand lane to turn left along with no left turn signs! We followed the signs and found that, to turn left, you have to turn right, go down about half a block or so and do a u-turn. Seems to me that the u-turn was more dangerous than a left hand turn – but at least now I know what a Michigan left is.

    When we lived in Bartlett, IL, a town of around 14,000 at the time, there was a South Bartlett Rd, a North Bartlett Rd and a West Bartlett Rd and all headed toward the center of town. The South and West Bartlett Rds changed to Main St for about 8 or 10 blocks as it crossed through the center of town. In the center of town Main St made a 90 degree turn, (hence the change from South to West) where North Bartlett Rd met it at the train crossing. It was very frustrating when someone would give directions using only Bartlett Rd without telling you which Bartlett Rd they meant!

    When we moved here to the Greenville area about 5 years ago, we amused to find East North Street. After looking at it on the map, we saw it could have been named Northeast North Street since it’s basically a diagonal.

    Rob adds: Too funny, Vikki! You are so right!

  7. #7 JohnMatzko
    on Aug 27th, 2010 at 11:04 am

    About Greenville’s East North Street: it was named for a North family.

    Roads with signs indicting different directions are called “Wrong-way concurrencies.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrong-way_concurrency#Wrong-way_concurrency

    Rob adds: I didn’t know that about East North Street, John. Nor the term wrong-way concurrencies. Thanks!

  8. #8 Katie
    on Aug 28th, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I find these posts of yours about road signs hilarious! I am a high school French teacher and showed the “Toutes directions”/”Autres directions” sign to my 3rd and 4th year classes. I also love the signs to indicate when you are leaving a city with the big red line through them. I always find those odd but it does make sense! I am going to have to pay more attention to street signs when I am in France next time. Merci pour l’amusement!

    Rob adds: De rien! The French method of leaving-town-signage (really used in other European countries also) does make sense and is a good, economical way of doing things. It’s just my strange mind that sees it as “Don’t whatever-town-it was!” 😀 I hope you will be back often. Thanks for your comment, Katie.

  9. #9 Tony
    on Aug 31st, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I have a picture of a “Senior crossing” sign that I took while visiting San Francisco (couldn’t find it though).

    Not knowing any French, I would wonder if the French warning was directed AT seniors, or directed at others to be aware of (or to beware of) seniors. Was the sign near a senior crossing, or perhaps near senior’s lawns in danger of being stepped upon?

    Rob adds: I don’t really know where the senior sign is located. You share some interesting ideas though, Tony. One time in one of the nursing homes where our students did a program for the residents, we were shocked that they carried people down the stairs and didn’t have an elevator. Seemed highly risky to us! We wondered what on earth they would do in the event of a fire.

  10. #10 JohnMatzko
    on Sep 1st, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Unfortunately, my word-of-mouth etymology for East North Street is wrong. Furman English professor and local historian Judith Bainbridge says that “North Street (briefly Boundary Street) marked the northern end of town.” It’s such a pain to make a confident assertion only to have someone who actually knows come along.

    Rob adds: Not to worry, John. As they say, to err is human, to moo bovine. Thanks for the clarification. 🙂