Tag Archives: confusing signs

A Picture’s Worth A Thousand (Swear)Words

Pictograms.  Never has a supposedly simple solution gone so laughably (and swearably) wrong.

I realize that they’re supposed to provide accessibility for the 5% of people who have difficulty reading; and it’s a great idea to add them to signs.  But take away the words, and it leaves all of us bumbling around wondering, “WTF is this supposed to mean?!?”  The ancient Egyptians used nothing but pictograms, and look where they ended up.  Just sayin’.

I’m all for pictograms plus words.  But pictograms alone are like playing Pictionary with art-challenged companions; except that the stakes are your time and sanity instead of gut-busting laughter and minor humiliation when you accidentally draw a pornographic-looking diagram that was supposed to have represented ‘stretch pants’.  (Not that that’s ever happened to anybody I know, nuh-uh, nope).

For instance, after years of exposure to this cryptic symbol, I’ve finally recognized that it means power on/off:

But if I were looking at it for the first time, I’d be stumped.

What is it supposed it to represent?  An apple?  A bathroom sink as seen from above?  A nipple ring?  A cherry bomb?  A sex act?  A giant space probe slamming into the planet and annihilating all life?  Or maybe it’s a finger pressing a button.  Who the hell knows?  Should I push that button or not?

My treadmill has equally arcane symbols.  You’d think it would be hard to go wrong — the tortoise means “slow” and the hare means “fast”.

But then there’s this:

I’m okay with ‘time’ represented by the clock and ‘speed’ represented by the rabbit.  But what’s that button with the vertical lines and double back-arrows?  Maybe it resets my time and mileage.  Or maybe if I press that button, my treadmill will suddenly reverse direction and accelerate to warp-speed, catapulting me off the treadmill and through the wall.  I could press it and find out; but I don’t dare.

The little flames under the right indicator are equally worrisome.  They’re supposed to indicate “calories burned”, but they could just as easily mean “your treadmill will catch fire in three… two…”

But I’m sure my treadmill would never do that, because it loves me.  That’s what those hearts mean, right…?

What pictograms do you love to hate?

P.S.  I just found this hilarious interpretation of laundry label symbols

Book 14 update:  Chapter 36 and going strong!  Now, if only my fingers would learn to correctly type “public” instead of “pubic”…

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What Were They Thinking?

You know how you’re cheerfully going along and everything makes perfect sense, and then you find something that makes your brain screech to a halt and yelp, “Wait, what?”

This week I encountered more ‘what-were-they-thinking’ situations than usual.  For instance, I sometimes use preservative-free eye drops that come in teeny individual vials:

0.4 ml: About 7 drops

You’re supposed to open the vial, use what you need, and throw away the remainder to avoid contamination.  Each vial holds about seven drops.  But… most people have two eyes.  Why would they create a vial that holds an uneven number of drops?

At first glance it seems illogical, but I guess it’s actually marketing genius — they know you’ll have to waste part of each vial; and more waste for you equals more sales for them.  (Sometimes finding answers isn’t as satisfying as one might hope.)

Also:  This weekend I was at an art conference, where I learned about a new drawing tool.  It works like a wax crayon but also has water-soluble elements so you can drag a wet brush through it and get a watercolour effect.  Very cool indeed!  But why did they call it a ‘Woody’?

The Stabilo Woody: It even comes wearing a condom… erm, sorry; “protective sleeve”.

Not even the conference presenter was able to say ‘woody’ out loud without snickering.  I can’t believe that nobody on the Stabilo marketing team ever said, “Hey, you know that’s slang for an erect penis, right?”  (Or maybe they were snickering when they named it.  Hmmm.)  So wrap your hands around your woodies, folks, and let’s get this party started!

Moving right along…

Also at the conference, I found this sign in the bathroom:

It says “Please press the grey circle for 5 seconds to flush”… and there’s a grey circle on the sign.

I wonder how many people did what I did:  Read the sign, saw the grey circle, and thought, “But pressing a dot on the wall won’t flush the toilet.”

The sign was actually referring to the grey circle on the dual-flush control for the toilet far below; and it was necessary because the other half of the control didn’t work.  But why would they put a grey circle on the sign and mount it so high it seems unrelated to the toilet?  It would have been much more helpful to place the sign directly above the actual control with a downward-pointing arrow.

I chuckled at this garbled communication, but maybe the joke’s on me.  Maybe I’m the only person who ever looked at the sign and momentarily wondered if I was supposed to press the wall.  But I don’t think so.  The grey circle on the sign looked suspiciously finger-smudged.

And now I’m giggling at the thought of people repeatedly pressing the dot and wondering why the toilet wouldn’t flush.

Any oddball events in your world this week?

Book 14 update:  I got into Chapter 27 this week.  It’s fun to be a fly on the wall when Reggie Chow and Holt The Magnificent lock horns!

P.S. For those who asked for an updated photo of the trellis project that singed my toes, here it is completed and installed:

The last of the dahlias and glads are still hanging on, and yesterday I planted another 700 bulbs. We’re looking forward to the spring blooms!

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