Saturday, May 25, 2013

Extreme Housekeeping (And Other Signs of the Times)

What signs tell us about behavior and expectation....

On a recent visit with to a job site on the 405 widening project in the Sepulveda Pass, I came across an "extreme housekeeping" sign that made me think about the ways we use language and image to control behavior. (Normally these construction sites are not opening to the public; I was on a field trip sponsored by the Center for Land Use Interpretation.)

For the "housekeeping" sign, see below. First let's put some display options in context.

Sometimes a sign is so obvious, it doesn't need much --- if any --- language. Here's an ad from Sri Lanka. I think we all know what it is telling us to do.

This next sign also reveals its intentions very swiftly. It's odd and sad, yet clear. They offer a service to help a family prepare a deceased person for burial. This was taken in Ghana.

This next sign is very clear and rather mean. One wants to tell the Scrooge landlord, Aw, come on, have a heart. No ball games? That's just mean.

Other times, image and text may be a bit at odds. Have a look at this:

Is it just me, or does this dog seem nearly friendly? And it's sort of fox-like, rather than dog-like. Perhaps the sign should say, "Beware of the Foxes and the Fox-German Shepherd Hybrids."

This next sign seems rather redundant. It's from Boston and has red letters for extra emphasis. I appreciate the polite "Please," but wouldn't the snow and the lack of water keep me out of the pool anyway?

Some signs promise more they can deliver. I am not sure anybody can learn English without some homework and without a bit of grammar study. Of course, my students would be glad if I adopted this secret and magical pedagogy. Maybe for their sake, I should have signed up.

This sign in Reno seems contradictory. "CCW" refers to a conceal-and-carry weapon permit: that is to say, you can keep a .32 in your ankle holster and it's legal. This hotel says its private property rights trump your Second Amendment rights.

Some signs baffle me, or require a bit of translation, even when one is in London where they speak a somewhat legible version of English. This was in a pub in Pimlico.

"Mews" used to be the cages in which royalty kept raptors for the sport of falconry, though in the UK in can mean a short side street and the apartments therein. (Now the Royal Mews are where one goes to see the Queen's horses and carriages.) "Cobbles" means the stone driveway that this pub's open-air seating spills out onto. "Mew" can also be a cat-like moaning or meowing sound, perhaps the sound one makes when one has had too much to drink, fallen asleep on the cobbles, and woken up so sick you're barely able to whimper.

Here's another one that takes a minute to follow through to its full meaning. It's from Ghana.

We call the express highways in L.A. "freeways" not because they have so little traffic but because unlike back east, there are not many tolls. If there IS going to be a road tax, it only seems fair that we all pay equally. That means that zombies and the undead have to pay their highway tolls too, just like the rest of us. Read down a few lines on this sign to come to the appropriate fee for the mummy wagon.

"NB" refers to the now-little-known abbreviation, "Nota Bene," or in English, "note well the following detail; pay special attention to this footnote." It's a rather hyper-literate thing for a sign, since even the MLA doesn't tend to use this abbreviation anymore. Watch out for those mummies, though, in or out of their wagons.

Staying fit to combat the potential onslaught of the undead remains an important factor in modern life. There's extreme skiing, for example, or "crocking" (bungee jumping in Australia in which one lands in water inhabited by saltwater crocodiles, the ones famous for snacking on humans). New to me though is the sport listed below, described on a sign on the sign of a job-site trailer adjacent to the 405 Freeway.

Somehow it makes me think of vacuuming the stairs while simultaneously rappelling down from the skylight in a Ninja costume, or maybe using a jet pack and rollerblades to see how fast I can hose down the driveway. Whatever I do, I better do it well, since "Anything less is unacceptable!!: If I could somehow combine my concealed weapons, a wagon full of mummies, and some virus-laden coconut shoots, I would have the complete package. Of course, the sign itself might be as wide as a billboard. Time now to put on my crash helmet and get a blowtorch ready, to see what can be done about the weeds in the planter. After that, we'll see how the skateboard performs in the bathtub. If I cover the bottom with a scouring pad and lubricate it all with some scum-be-gone foam, I bet I can knock this thing out in under two minutes.

Kawabunga, as the surfers used to say.


The Antelope Valley College blog is curated by Charles Hood in Language Arts and does not represent the views of the Board of Trustees, the District itself, or Metropolitan Transit Authority, which is the organization behind the interminable freeway project on the Sepulveda Pass. Hood can be reached at


  1. Living overseas presented me with lots of opportunities for hilarious and confusing signs. Our housekeeping service gets a lot of funny notes.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hah that last housekeeping sign is my fav, "Anything less is unacceptable" damn right lol. I found some other good house keeping slogans you may like that I'll leave here: Housekeeping Slogans

  5. However, asking the agency directly for questions will help you determine whether you should go for them or not. house maid agency Malaysia

  6. Nice blog. we are leading housekeeping service provider in chennai.
    Housekeeping services in chennai