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Unhelpful Road Signs

picture of unhelpful road sign

Don't you usually expect road signs to be helpful? Yet how often do you see signs along the highway or in town that might as well not be there? One thing I have noticed about our part of the country is that, when you are driving on the highway, you are expected to remember the last sign you saw because, at the point you'll need the information (the exit), there's no sign to help you! For instance, you see a sign telling that the next exit on the highway is for Hwy SC 253, but when you get to the exit, the only thing on that sign is the exit number. If you didn't happen to notice and/or remember the sign a mile or so back, you would have no idea where this exit will take you.

I have driven quite a bit in France, and let me tell you, it's different! French drivers are ... shall I say ... intrepid? And some of the traffic laws are different. For instance there are many intersections with no stop signs or traffic lights. In that case, the person to your right has the right of way (priorité). Many of the road signs are what I call "International Illiterate Signs." Below are some that you might see in Europe (the home of the first road signs). Of course, the actual signs would be minus the words under them.

picture of European road signs

Many of those signs are easily understandable, but there are some that leave me wondering.

Worse yet in France are the signs Toutes Directions (all directions) and Autres Directions (other directions). Here's an example:

picture of helpful road sign

I may have missed the logic here, but it seems to me that if the sign Toutes Directions is indicating all directions, how can there even be other directions???

Below is a place in France that leaves you wondering why there isn't a "helpful" Toutes Directions sign pointing to the left.

picture of an overabundance of helpful road signs in France

Maybe that is their means of keeping down the speed of the drivers as they must go slowly enough to find the sign they need.

Our German friends Uwe and Diana are leaving Friday morning to do some sightseeing for a week in Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston. Here's a picture of them this evening, with "Ivman Central" in the background....

picture of Uwe and Diana

They, of course, are used to the wordless signs in Germany, and so if they see any, they will know what to do. They even have a GPS in their rental vehicle here to help them get around. But I hope they don't run across any signs like the ones below in which the words will cause more confusion than help.

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

Maybe their GPS will help them in situations like the ones below.

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

picture of helpful road sign

I'm sure some of you have funny experiences of driving in another country or of having to decipher unhelpful road signs. Please share them with us!


"Praising God is not closing your eyes to reality. It's lifting your eyes to reality." - Dr. Drew Conley

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The road to success always seems to be under construction.

Spelling and Pronunciation Woes

picture of dominoes

Although the following is not news to long-time ivman readers, it may help newcomers to understand a little more about the guy who does this blog. After teaching French as a foreign language for 32 years and German for 16 years, I found out what it's like to teach English as a foreign language when my wife and I taught summer school at a university in China in 2005 and 2006. English is not easy, even if you grow up speaking it, but trying to explain some of the oddities of English to non-anglophones makes you realize just how quirky English spelling and pronunciation can be. With that in mind, I've put together several things from my files that highlight some of those difficulties of the English language.

The combination of letters "ough" at the end of various words has seven different pronunciations, as shown in the following poem:

'Tis not an easy task to show
How o-u-g-h sounds; since though
An Irish lough (lok) and English slough
And cough and hiccough (hik'kup) all allow,
Differ as much as tough and through,
There seems no reason that they do.

The following could really make you say "Hmmm..."

If GH can stand for P as in Hiccough,
And if OUGH stands for O as in Dough,
And if PHTH stands for T as in Phthisis,
And if EIGH stands for A as in Neighbor,
And if TTE stands for T as in Gazette,
And if EAU stands for O as in Plateau,
Then an alternative spelling of POTATO could be GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU,

No wonder the English language is so hard to learn and master, huh? I sometimes wonder how we manage to communicate at all! We have many homonyms – words that are spelled differently but pronounced the same, as illustrated in the picture at the beginning of this post – ate/eight, weigh/way, eye/aye/I, etc. But worse yet, we have words whose spellings are exactly the same and yet whose pronunciations differ, based on how the words are used!

One of my pet peeves is the mispronunciation of one of the sayings of Dr. Bob Sr. — "Duties never conflict." I often hear people say it using the pronunciation of conflict as if it were a noun, with the emphasis on the first syllable. But since conflict is a verb in the saying, the emphasis should be on the second syllable. I'm not sure where that mispronunciation began ... I certainly hope it wasn't Dr. Bob Sr. himself. 🙂

Below are some fine examples for your analysis. (It's more effective if you try to read the following sentences aloud.)

We must polish off the Polish sausage before it spoils.

He could lead if he got the lead out.

The farm was used mainly to produce produce.

The dump was so full that they had to refuse more refuse.

Sometimes I progress without making any real progress.

The soldier decided to desert in the desert.

There's no time like the present to present the present to the birthday boy. (Whoa! Two pronunciations, but three uses!)

Even though I read it last year, I will read it again this year.

Instead of a trout, a bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

I did not object to the object he offered me.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

The bandage was wound around the wound.

His teacher was content with the content.

There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

The two of us were too close to the door to close it. (Not only does this one use "close", but it also contains the dreaded to-too-two homonyms.)

The buck does funny things when does are nearby.

With her needle and thread the sewer could not fix the tear in the sewer line, she reported later with a tear in her eye. (A double whammy in this one.)

To help with the planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

The wind was so strong we couldn't wind the sail.

If you were in the slough of despond could you just slough it off?

After a number of injections my jaw finally got number.

The king had to subject his subject to a series of trials.

How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

If someone resent an e-mail to you, would you resent it?


We are having a lot of fun with our German house guests, each supplying for the other the English word or German word that the other person would like to say but won't come to mind. In the process we've all learned many words, idioms, and slang in each other's language. The other evening I learned a word I didn't know before. What was funny about it was that I immediately figured out what the word had to mean from the knowing the two root words and hearing it in its context. The word is Staubsauger, which literally means "dust sucker." From what Diana was saying, I knew right away that it has to be the German word for vacuum cleaner. I'll have to do a blog post sometime on German compound words!

I hope your week is off to a good start. I'm looking forward to what will be added to this post through readers' comments.


"True worship is never stingy." - Dr. Drew Conley

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

Anger is only one letter short of danger.

The English Language Is Crazy!

picture of languages

Have you ever studied a foreign language? If so, you have probably encountered enough vocabulary items or idiomatic expressions to know that there are things about a language that are inexplicable to speakers of other languages. If you are an English speaker who hasn't studied another language, then imagine trying to explain some English expressions to foreigners learning English. For instance, if you were to tell someone, "keep your nose to the grindstone," how would you explain that you mean that you want the person to keep working hard, and not to do an activity that would be not only stupid and unnatural, but also extremely painful and messy?

Being a French professor, former German professor, and having studied a little Spanish and Chinese, I have done my share of trying to understand some basic idiomatic expressions for myself and of trying to get others to understand them. As hard as it is sometimes to get my French students to accept and use certain idioms in French, I must say that the two summers my wife and I taught English in China were far more difficult. The differences between our cultures and our languages are so great that the gap is hard enough to bridge already. But then compounding that with the hundreds of inexplicable things in the English language makes the task all the more daunting!

Below is something I've pieced together, using various things in my files. You English speakers (anglophones) out there need to read the following with an eye towards being the one who has to explain all this to non-anglophones.

The English Language Is Crazy!

If we English speakers thought about it, we would have to admit that English is a crazy language. The reasons for that statement are almost endless. There is no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger, and neither apple nor pine in pineapple. A mushroom is not a room where we eat mush. English muffins weren't invented in England nor French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We simply take English for granted. Yet if we explored its paradoxes, we would find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write, but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? No. Just as we can have one mouse, two mice and one louse, two lice, but not one house, two hice. Crazy!

Doesn't it seem odd that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If a teacher has taught, has a preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue? And try to explain verbs like sing, sang, sung, ring, rang, rung, but not bring, brang, brung. Or better yet sink, sank, sunk, drink, drank, drunk, but not think, thank, thunk?!

Should English speakers all be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane? In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike?

Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Have you ever met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly, or peccable? And where are all those people who *are* spring chickens or who would *actually* hurt a fly?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on. And when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up a speech, I end it.

And then English teachers seek to enforce and reinforce all these things! They tell us not to use a double negative in English because a double negative forms a positive. If an English teacher told me there is no language where a double positive can form a negative, my reply would be "Yeah, right!"

In some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. In fact in French, you can have more than two negatives, and it's still just fine. "Personne ne fait jamais rien pour moi" is a perfectly acceptable sentence in French, but an English teacher would insist that the literal translation "No one never does nothing for me" would be better rendered "No one ever does anything for me." I somehow prefer the French on this one since the correction just sounds too positive.

So, do you agree with me that English is a crazy language?


Our German house guests, Uwe and Diana, arrived last evening, and so far we are having a great time together. Diana speaks some English, but Uwe's English is stronger. I can say far more in German than I thought I could, but we've already talked about all kinds of things where my German vocab was either weak or non-existent. Trying to get our ideas across to each other has been challenging, but fun also. I'll give an update in a blog post next week.

I mentioned above that French fries weren't invented in France. Some people almost go into a panic when they hear that, but fries were invented in Belgium. The French don't mind that we call them French fries, even though the French tell Belgian jokes in the same way that Americans tell Polack jokes. In fact, in France I've told many Polack jokes, substituting "Belge" for "Polonais," and the jokes fly! Several years ago one of my cousins from France sent me the following funny picture of a bloody battle in Belgium.

War in Belgium (la Guerre en Belgique)...

picture of French fries in a bloody battle

(Click on the image for a larger version of it. In case you still can't tell what it is, it's fries with ketchup on some of them.)

I would love to hear some of your thoughts on our crazy English language and/or your funny mistakes in grappling with idiomatic expressions in another language. I've made my share of mistakes through the years!


"God's plan in our trials is not to make us more self-sufficient. It's to make us more dependent on Him." - Alan Benson

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Refuse Novocain ... Transcend Dental Medication

Extra! Extra! Read All about It!

picture of news crier

For several years I have been hearing about the decline in newspaper circulation. But recently I have heard of newspaper publishers laying off employees or even deciding to publish online only. I know many people who love the newspapers and who read them regularly. But I also know more and more people who seek their news online, whether it be from the newspapers they've always read on paper or from other news outlets now available.

Recently I came across an e-mail I had received a long time ago that included some hilarious newspaper clippings. I thought now might be a good time to share them. I will pass them along with little or no comment – I'll count on you to comment on any of them that strike you funny. Some of the articles had to have been published on an extremely slow news day!

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

This correction hardly seems adequate....

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

picture of newspaper clipping

This final one makes me wonder why it took the man so long to notice the absence!

picture of newspaper clipping

Are you a newspaper reader? Do you trust newspapers in general or any one in particular?


This is final exam week here on campus, with graduation this Saturday. I haven't been to Europe in 8 years, but lately Europe has been coming to us! Last week one of my former students who is from Germany and who majored in French here at BJU stopped by to see me while in town. This morning I was surprised to see a former student from England who is here for her sister's graduation. This Wednesday evening a German couple we don't know is arriving at our house. My office mate Phil and his wife are housing two people in the group and asked us to house this couple. They will be with us for a week and a half. My rusty German might have to come out of retirement — it's been 19 years since I last taught German!

This morning I read an excellent blog post by a missionary in Europe and left a comment. His blog is on blogspot.com and some Internet filtering where you are reading this may prevent you from going there. If you'd like to read the post, you can find it by clicking on the following link – Alcohol on the Mission Field.


"I read no newspaper now but Ritchie's, and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper." - Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Nathaniel Macon, January 12, 1819

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It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.

New Haircuts

picture of letter man with different hairdos

Shorter hair helps a lot in the summer heat. With the advent of warmer temperatures, my wife and I are both sporting shorter hair, just in the past week. At lunch today, when someone commented on Becka's new do, someone mentioned a classic I sent out as an iv a number of years ago, pointing out how differently men and women behave after a new haircut. (BTW, I don't know who the guy is in the series of hairdo pix. Whew! Not his best looks, though!)

Haircuts - the difference between women and men


Woman 1: Oh! You got a haircut! That's so cuuuuute!

Woman 2: Do you think so? I wasn't sure when she gave me the mirror. I mean, you don't think it's too fluffy looking?

Woman 1: Oh no, it's perfect! I'd love to get my hair cut like that, but I think my face is too wide. I'm pretty much stuck with this style, I think.

Woman 2: Are you serious? I think your face is adorable. And you could easily get one of those layer cuts - that would look so cute on you. I was actually going to do that except that I was afraid it would accent my long neck.

Woman 1: Oh, now that's funny! I would love to have your neck! Anything to take attention away from this two-by-four I have for a shoulder line.

Woman 2: Are you kidding? I know girls that would love to have your shoulders. Everything drapes so well on you. I mean, look at my arms - see how short they are? If I had your shoulders I could get clothes to fit me so much easier.

Woman 1: Do you think so? Oh, you're just saying that!

Woman 2: No! Really, I mean it....


Man 1: Haircut?

Man 2: Ummhmm.


The preceding reminds me of a blog post from over two years ago called It's great to be a guy that you might enjoy.

housekeeping items...

With the end of the school year drawing near, I know that some of you who read my posts by e-mail might be losing the e-mail address at which you are reading this. If that's the case with you, please click on the link at the bottom of the e-mail to unsubscribe, then go to the blog and use one of the links to posts by e-mail to sign up your new e-mail address, remembering to complete the process by clicking on the link in that e-mail you'll receive almost immediately.

Speaking of those who read my posts by e-mail, I mentioned in the last post that I was missing several images from a previous post. Two of my readers were able to supply me with the missing pictures! I'm glad I'm not the only "digital packrat" out there! 😀 I have thanked them by e-mail, in an editorial update to my last post, and in the post that was missing the pictures.

Do you have any funny haircut stories to share? Or any haircut nightmares? Since I cut my own hair, I have no one else to be mad at but myself.


"Where there is a neglect of Scripture, there will be a neglect of Christ." - Dr. Drew Conley

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Two hair-related questions:
Men: What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?
Women: What hair color do some women put on their driver's licenses..."subject to change?"