Britishisms on signs v1


I’ve been long meaning to take photos of some interesting grammatical constructions that I’ve seen on British signs, and this one was a perfect place to start. Whereas an American might have said “no open flames” the sign reads “no naked lights” next to a cage of gas canisters. It’s too bad it did not read “no naked flames” or I could have made a witty comment about keeping Bettie Page-like burlesque performers at a safe distance…


7 responses to “Britishisms on signs v1

  1. Ferdinand Cesarano

    “Naked lights” is a very intersting term — I had never encountered it before. I am struck by how it sort of reverses the imagery present in the British/American pair “torch” and “flashlight”.

    What I mean is that we see here that the word “lights” can in British English refer to a natural flame, even though that word in American English implies something artificial. This is the converse of “torch”/”flashlight”: “torch” can refer in American English only to an open flame; but in British English it means a hand-held electric light.

    Anyway, I think you’ve overlooked an Americanism that has evidently made its way back across to Britain: “flammable”, to mean “inflammable”.

    Because of fears that “inflammable” would be misunderstood by people mistakenly taking it to mean its opposite, the form “flammable” was introduced in America.

    Good thing, too — thus was the terrifying “exploding illiterates” scourge mercifully nipped in the bud in the U.S. It would appear from the sign, however, that illiteracy has lately made some impressive strides in Britain.

  2. Dear Notfromaroundhere,

    I couldn’t find an address on your blog to email you so sorry for the off-topic post here. You asked me on my blog why the economic downtown seems to be worse in Britain than America, even though the British press is criticising America. So I emailed an economist friend of mine (who is neither American, nor British) and here is is comment back to me:

    “From some limited reading the UK got whacked pretty hard by the financial meltdown. In fact, Canary Wharf, the financial hub, got decimated. An old college friend, who’s lived outside of London for the past 25 years and who works in the financial industry, reaffirmed this last month when he came over for a visit. A lot of layoffs.

    On top of that, Gordon Brown has been an absolute disaster for the British economy, scaring middle class self-employed people out of the country through his taxation policy. My buddy has specnt the past 18 months living abroad with brief returns to London (he has a wife and three sons) to avoid Brown’s taxes. It has to do with from where one generates income from outside the UK. So he can only spend 6 months a year in England if he doesn’t want to get creamed. Brits hate Brown, who’s too scared to call an election. Remember, he never got elected in the first place, taking over from Tony Blair.

    Hope this helps…”

    Best regards,
    Expat 21, at Expat Abroad

  3. It is hard to imagine a situation where smoking is acceptable, but not naked lights. Or vice versa. But I guess it’s ok to be pedantic where hazardous chemicals are involved.

  4. According to the Merriam-Webster American online dictionary, a meaning of ‘light’ is “a flame for lighting something (as a cigarette)”. So I am puzzled as to why you find the sign odd.

  5. love this. seeing a sign like this would make my day. even if it became commonplace. that’s how much I love this.

  6. You would think they were trying to prevent a strip club from cropping up there.

    “and coming to the stage under the naked lights…”

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