Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Strange signs

A couple curious things I saw walking around Vienna today.

Curious signage
via flickr

Is it just me, or do “Alter Schmuck” and “pullovaria” this sound like his and hers medical centers?

And I dislike sexism in that special way that fathers of daughters do, but…

Huh?
via flickr

Space Invaders? Huh?

[To the tune of Amy Winehouse, “Back To Black,” from the album Back to Black (I give it 2 stars).]

6 Comments

  1. Being a native German I probably would read these signs without batting much of an eyelid but looking through the eyes of an English speaker I can see why you find them amusing. Mind you, Pulloveria is even to me a bit strange, never heard that one before… Sounds like a shop where they sell only jumpers (sweaters to you Americans :)) which are called pullover (without plural s) in German…

  2. It’s really only funny if like me you’re ignorant. Not the strongest foundation for comedy, I must admit….

  3. I’m sure you are not ignorant but you are certainly missing out on a great experience when not being able to speak another language to a certain degree.
    Learning English and listening to how people joke around in their language taught me new ways of being funny in German – with the result that I annoyed my sister at the time because I couldn’t stop making stupid jokes. Anyway, I’m sure the reputation of Germans to be without humour has something to do with how unyielding our language is and how little people look for puns and cheap innuendos because of that…

  4. Oh, I think you’re quite right about missing out by not being able to speak a language. I find it’s an enormous psychological relief to be in England today, and to be surrounded by words (both written and spoken) that I can understand, and to be able to chat easily with people. When I’m traveling, I get to have some amazing conversations with really brilliant people that last for hours– then I leave the conference or academy and go onto the street, and can barely communicate with anybody. It’s a dislocating feeling.

    But I’ll also cop to the ignorance charge.

  5. I understand what you are saying and I agree with it completely but it reminded me of that sometimes I’m actually quite happy not to understand absolutely everything people are saying, especially on public transport where you can’t always zone out of people’s conversations. When I lived in the Netherlands it got to a point where I would understand international train announcements in stations made in Dutch, English German, and French and at the end of it I’d just have enough of that. But for the most I’m definitely quite happy that I know what’s going on and that I can make myself understood in a number of countries. 🙂

  6. Victoria here:

    From an acquainted-with-Yiddish perspective, “alter Schmuck” is freaking HILARIOUS, and I’m still giggling. And on the other hand, “Pulloveria” just sounded like a nation composed entirely of argyle sweaters, thanks to my years of high school German.

    I would have to say that the funny here does not derive from ignorance, Alex, but from your familiarity with English, and scientific English at that; you’re clearly reading these signs with a profoundly polyglot mind, simultaneously parsing the one in Friars’ Roast Yiddish and the other in corporate/medical Latin.

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